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UN chief asks donor countries for 'continuity' in Gaza agency operations

By AFP

January 28, 2024 12:12 PM


UN chief asks donor countries for 'continuity' in Gaza agency operations

Children gather in front of a building destroyed by Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 27, 2024. AFP

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UN chief Antonio Guterres has pleaded for donor states to "guarantee the continuity" of the body's Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) after several halted funding over accusations of staff involvement in Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel.

"While I understand their concerns -- I was myself horrified by these accusations -- I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA's operations," Guterres said in a statement on Saturday.

Israel has alleged several UNRWA staff were involved in Hamas's attack, leading a number of key donor countries to suspend their funding.

The agency has fired several staff over Israel's accusations, promising a thorough investigation into the claims, which were not specified.

Israel has meanwhile vowed to stop the agency's work in Gaza after the war.

The row between Israel and UNRWA follows the UN's International Court of Justice ruling on Friday that Israel must prevent possible acts of genocide in the conflict and allow more aid into Gaza.

"The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences," Guterres said.

"But the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized," he added.

"The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met."

Guterres confirmed that 12 UNRWA employees were cited in the accusations, which the United Nations is investigating.

Nine have been fired, one is dead, and "the identity of the two others is being clarified", he said.

Several key donor countries to UNRWA have said they will temporarily suspend their current or future funding following the allegations, including the United States, Britain, Canada and Switzerland.

Israel's envoy to the UN on Sunday slammed Guterres, saying the UN chief had repeatedly ignored "evidence" presented to him regarding UNRWA's involvement in "incitement and terrorism".

"Any country that continues to fund UNRWA before a comprehensive investigation of the organization should know that its money will be used for terrorism and the aid that will be transferred to UNRWA may reach the Hamas terrorists instead of the population in Gaza," Gilad Erdan said in a statement issued by Israel's foreign ministry.

Hamas decried Israeli "threats" against UNRWA on Saturday, urging the UN and other international organizations not to "cave in to the threats and blackmail".

The Islamist group's October 7 attack resulted in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Hamas fighters also seized about 250 hostages and Israel says around 132 of them remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives.

Israel's military offensive has killed at least 26,257 people, most of them women and children, according to Gaza's health ministry.

 


AFP


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