Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Canada, U.K., Australia, Others Join U.S. In Pausing Funding To UNRWA

Australia, Canada, the U.K., and other Western nations have joined the U.S. in pausing funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency after Israel alleged 12 UNRWA employees were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack.

The big picture: UNRWA has fired the accused staffers and launched an investigation. The UN also said it is conducting an “urgent and comprehensive independent review” of the agency.

  • UNRWA is a key provider of humanitarian aid and shelter to Palestinians in Gaza amid Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive.

Driving the news: A senior Israeli official said the Shin Bet and Israeli military intelligence provided information that pointed to the active participation of UNRWA staffers and the use of the agency’s vehicles and facilities during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

  • “This was strong and corroborated intelligence,” the official said. “A lot of the intelligence is a result of interrogations of militants who were arrested during the Oct. 7 attack.”

The U.S. on Friday became the first country to pause its funding to UNRWA over the allegations. It was the first step by the Biden administration against UNRWA since renewing U.S. funding to the agency after the Trump administration completely cut it off.

  • State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. is “extremely troubled by the allegations” and the administration has “temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”
  • The U.K.FinlandAustraliaCanada and Italy followed the U.S. and said they were temporarily suspending their funding either late Friday or on Saturday.

State of play: UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on Friday he terminated the contracts of the accused staff members and launched an investigation to “establish the truth without delay.”

  • “Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” Lazzarini said.
  • “UNRWA reiterates its condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the abhorrent attacks” on Oct. 7 and “calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages and their safe return to their families,” he added.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that Secretary-General António Guterres is “horrified” by the allegations.

  • Guterres has asked Lazzarini to “investigate this matter swiftly and to ensure that any UNRWA employee shown to have participated or abetted what transpired on 7 October, or in any other criminal activity, be terminated immediately and referred for potential criminal prosecution,” he added.

What they’re saying: Miller said Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke to Guterres on Thursday and emphasized “the necessity of a thorough and swift investigation of this matter.”

  • Miller welcomed the UN’s announcement of a comprehensive and independent review of UNRWA, and said there “must be complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks of Oct. 7.”
  • “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support,” Miller added.
  • “Their work has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures, including reviewing its existing policies and procedures.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday thanked the Biden administration for “taking an important step in holding UNRWA accountable.”

  • “Terrorism under the guise of humanitarian work is a disgrace to the UN and the principles it claims to represent,” he added.

Curled from Axios 

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