The United States and Canada have suspended funding to the United Nations refugee agency UNRWA after allegations that some officials were involved in Hamas attacks in Israel. The two countries have taken this step after the Israeli authorities made such a complaint last Friday. News from Reuters, BBC and Times of Israel.
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement that the Israeli authorities have submitted information to some UNRWA officers involved in the deadly attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7. 12 officials were fired after Israel gave such information. He said, “I have decided to immediately cancel the contracts of these officials to protect our organization’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance.”
However, Philip Lazzarini did not reveal the names of these officials. He also did not reveal how they were involved in the Hamas attack. He said, as soon as the complaint came, I started the investigation without delay. Any UNRWA officials involved in these acts of terrorism will be held accountable. They will even be punished under the criminal law. In addition, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was shocked by such allegations, his spokesperson said.
The world’s eyes were on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court of the United Nations, on Friday for its verdict in the much-discussed case against Israel accused of carrying out genocide in the Gaza Strip. The court ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza. On the day of the court’s verdict, Israel accused some UNRWA officials of being involved in the attacks by Hamas.
In an interview, the spokesperson of the Israeli government, Aylon Levy, said that on any other day, this news would have been the main headline: Israel has submitted evidence of the involvement of UN employees with Hamas.
According to a BBC report, the United States has temporarily suspended funding to UNRWA following complaints from Israeli authorities. Apart from this, the country said to look into this complaint of Israel.
The United States was the largest donor to UNRWA in 2022. US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, “We will review these allegations.” The United Nations is taking steps to solve them. The US has temporarily suspended their payments.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said the US decision was an important step to hold UNRWA accountable. He said major changes are needed in the organization so that international efforts, money and humanitarian efforts do not encourage Hamas’s terrorism and killing of Israelis.
Canada made a similar announcement hours after Israel’s main ally, the United States, announced a freeze on funding. Canada’s International Development Minister Ahmed Hossain said in an interview that Canada condemns the attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 without any hesitation. They are deeply concerned about the alleged involvement of some UNRWA officials in this attack. He said, I have instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada to stop all funding of UNRWA until the investigation is completed.
UNRWA was established to care for the millions of Palestinian refugees caused by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Currently, the organization supports millions of Palestinians living in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in various social services including health and education.
Earlier, the United States stopped giving money to UNRWA under the then US President Donald Trump. After Joe Biden came to power, the organization’s funding was restored. Recently, the US State Department also praised the work of UNRWA.
The European Union (EU) is a major donor to UNRWA, as are the United States and Canada. After this complaint, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, they will take further steps based on the results of the investigation.