Sunday, January 28, 2024

Guterres: UN to Penalize Staff Involved in ‘Terror,’ Urges UNRWA Funding


UN Chief Urges Donor States to Support UNRWA Amid Funding Halt

In a plea to donor states, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the continuity of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This comes after several countries suspended their funding to the agency due to allegations of staff involvement in Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7th.

Understanding the concerns raised by these accusations, Guterres expressed his horror and appealed to the governments that have halted their contributions to at least ensure the continuation of UNRWA’s operations. Israel has accused several UNRWA staff members of being involved in the attack, leading to the suspension of funding from key donor countries.

In response to Israel’s allegations, UNRWA has fired several staff members and promised a thorough investigation into the claims. However, the specific details of these accusations have not been disclosed. Israel, on the other hand, has vowed to halt the agency’s work in Gaza following the war.

This dispute between Israel and UNRWA follows the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice, which stated that Israel must prevent potential acts of genocide in the conflict and allow more aid into Gaza. Guterres emphasized that while the alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences, the tens of thousands of men and women working for UNRWA should not be penalized. He stressed the importance of meeting the dire needs of the desperate populations they serve.

Guterres confirmed that 12 UNRWA employees were implicated in the accusations, and the United Nations is currently conducting an investigation. Nine of these employees have been terminated, one is deceased, and the identities of the remaining two are being clarified.

Several key donor countries, including the United States, Britain, Canada, and Switzerland, have announced temporary suspensions of their current or future funding to UNRWA following these allegations. In response, Hamas condemned Israel’s threats against UNRWA and called on the UN and other international organizations not to succumb to these threats and blackmail.

Hamas’ attack on October 7th resulted in approximately 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to official figures. The militants also took around 250 hostages, and Israel reports that approximately 132 of them are still in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 deceased captives.

Since the start of Israel’s military offensive in late October, at least 26,257 people have been killed, with the majority being women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

As the funding halt threatens the continuity of UNRWA’s operations, it is crucial for donor states to consider the impact on the vulnerable populations that rely on the agency’s assistance. UNRWA plays a vital role in providing essential services, including education, healthcare, and social support, to Palestinian refugees in the region.

While the allegations against UNRWA staff members must be thoroughly investigated and addressed, it is important to ensure that innocent civilians are not further affected by the funding suspension. The international community must come together to find a resolution that upholds accountability while prioritizing the well-being of those in need.

In conclusion, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on donor states to guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations despite the funding halt caused by allegations of staff involvement in Hamas’ attack on Israel. While acknowledging the seriousness of these accusations, Guterres emphasized the importance of not penalizing the thousands of dedicated UNRWA employees and meeting the urgent needs of the vulnerable populations they serve. It is crucial for the international community to find a balanced approach that addresses accountability while ensuring the provision of essential services to Palestinian refugees.

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