At Least Nine Countries Suspend UNRWA Funding

At least nine countires have suspended funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) following Israeli allegations that 12 of the agency’s employees were involved in the October 7 attack that Hamas launched as part of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

Some of the countries that suspended funding for the UN agency are the United States, Britain, Germany, Canada and others. Over the course of the past three months, the heads of the aforementioned states have repeatedly expressed public support for Israel, encouraged its military campaign against Gaza, and refused to call for a ceasefire on multiple occasions.

In particular, The Biden administration in the United States has so far bypassed Congress twice last December to conduct weapons sales to Israel. The last sale amounted to $147.5m in total. 

After over 100 days of aggression, around two-thirds of Gaza’s population have become refugees, and over 25K have been killed and over 60K have been wounded – the overwhelming majority of which are civilians. 

On October 27, Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza under the pretense of “eliminating Hamas”, although many warned that this would be impossible to achieve. So far, Israel has failed to accomplish any military achievements on the ground, and has relied on carpet bombing Gaza and assassinating Hamas and Iranian officials abroad.

Suspension of funds exasperates humanitarian disaster

The allegations came into light after an Israeli hostage kept captive in Gaza said she was “held in the house of someone who worked for UNRWA.” These claims have yet to be independently verified. 

Israeli officials have not yet provided many details about the allegations, and the US Sttae Department said it had contacted Israel to “seek more information.”

It is worth noting that this is not the first time the US government or officials instate blind trust in Israeli allegations against Hamas or Palestinians. In October, President Biden stated to media officials that he had seen pictures of 40 babies which Hamas had beheaded. This claim was later proven to be false, but Biden had not retracted his statement or issued an apology for the spread of misinformation.

It is not yet clear whether the suspension of funds will be effective immediately or will affect future funding pledges, but according to UN Secretary General António Guterres, UNRWA could run out of its current funds in efforts to meet all the needs of the displaced Palestinians currently affected in Gaza as soon as February.

In over 100 days of aggressions on Gaza, Israel has repeatedly accused various governments, state actors and humanitarian agencies that openly opposed Israel’s repeated attacks on the strip of being “agents of Hamas.” 

The most jarring accusation so far has been towards South Africa, who Israel accused as being “the legal arm” of Hamas after South Africa accused Israel of genocide by presenting a case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

On Friday, the ICJ ruled that some of the allegations made by South Africa are plausible underneath the genocide convention, and issued emergency measures for Israel to abide by the convention and report back to the court within one month.

In response to the allegations, UNRWA immediately fired some of the accused employees and launched an independent investigation.

UN Secretary General Guterres said that “nine were immediately identified and terminated”, one is “confirmed dead,”, and “the identity of the two others is being clarified.”

Various human rights experts have warned that the suspension of aid to UNRWA would violate the 1948 Genocide Convention. UNRWA is the second-largest employer in the Gaza strip and the principal provider of humanitarian assistance. 

The suspension of funding would drastically endanger aid work in Gaza, said UNRWA. Aid work now is at its most essential, as large sections of the strip have become completely uninhabitable, the healthcare system is at the brink of collapse, and famine spreads at a dangerous rate.

Since October 7, more than 150 of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees have been killed – the largest loss of staff during a conflict in the entire history of the United Nations.