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Red Cross has no mandate to replace UNRWA in Gaza, chief says

By AFP

April 29, 2024 03:26 PM


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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not have a mandate to replace the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, its director general said in comments published on Monday.

UNRWA was swept into controversy in January when Israel accused 12 of its 30,000 employees of being involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks which led to the deaths of around 1,160 people -- mostly civilians -- according to an AFP count based on official Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed nearly 35,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

The UN immediately fired the implicated staff members and launched an internal investigation to assess the agency's neutrality.

"We have completely different mandates," ICRC director general Pierre Krahenbuhl told Swiss daily Le Temps in an interview.

UNWRA's mandate "comes from the UN General Assembly, the ICRC's from the Geneva Convention. The ICRC cannot take over UNRWA's mandate," he said.

"We already have enough to do without replacing other organisations," said Krahenbuhl, who himself had headed UNRWA between 2014 and 2019.

Last week, a report by an independent group led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna concluded that Israel had failed to furnish proof that some UNRWA employees had links to "terrorist organisations" such as Hamas.

UNWRA is a crucial provider of food to Palestinian refugees, defined as Palestinians who fled or were expelled around the time of Israel's 1948 creation, or their descendants.

In March, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said UNRWA had "reached a breaking point", with israel calling for its dismantling, major donors freezing their funding due to the Israeli accusations, and the people of Gaza facing a desperate humanitarian crisis.


AFP


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