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EU urges donors to fund UN agency for Palestinians after review

By AFP

April 24, 2024 12:17 AM


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The EU's humanitarian chief and key donor Norway on Tuesday urged countries to fund the UN agency for Palestinians after a review said Israel had not yet provided evidence that hundreds of staff had helped militants.

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic welcomed the report for "underlining the agency's significant number of compliance systems in place as well as recommendations for their further upgrade."

"I call on the donors to support UNRWA – the Palestinian refugees' lifeline," he wrote on X, the former Twitter.

Several countries suspended payments to the UN Relief and Works Agency after Israel alleged in January that some of its staff may have taken part in or helped the Hamas October 7 attacks on Israel. Some have since resumed aid, however.

"I am very pleased that countries like Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan, and Sweden have already reversed their decisions and resumed funding to UNRWA," Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement.

"I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding," added Eide, whose country heads an international aid group for Palestinians, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, and is one of its key funders.

The calls came after an independent review on UNRWA activities said Monday it had found some "neutrality-related issues" but noted that "Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence" for its claim that UNRWA employs more than 400 "terrorists."

The review group was created following Israel's allegations. In the weeks that followed, donor states suspended or paused some $450 million in funding.

The United States and Britain are among countries still holding back aid for UNRWA.

The US Congress passed a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden last month that blocks funding from Washington until March 2025.

The aid has been lost as months of Israeli military operations have turned the territory into a "humanitarian hellscape," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guteres said recently, with its 2.3 million people in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medicine.

Guterres has activated a second investigation to probe Israel's allegations.

Despite a robust framework for ensuring it upheld the humanitarian principle of neutrality, the review found that "neutrality-related issues persist," including instances of staff sharing biased political posts on social media and the use of a small number of textbooks with "problematic content" in some UNRWA schools.

UNRWA began operations in 1950 and provides services to nearly six million people across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.


AFP


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