Kuala Lumpur Post


Countries halt funding to UN agency in Gaza

PARIS — Several key donor countries to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Saturday they would halt their funding, following accusations by Israel that several UNRWA staff were involved in Hamas’s Oct 7 attack.

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

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

Here are what the countries that have suspended funding have said about the allegations:

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Saturday that while UNRWA provides “vital, life saving work”, Brisbane would “temporarily pause disbursement of recent funding”.

“We welcome UNRWA’s immediate response, including terminating contracts and launching an investigation,” she said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Canada’s International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen on Friday announced that Ottawa had “temporarily paused any additional funding to UNRWA while it undertakes a thorough investigation into these allegations”.

Finland, had a four-year agreement to provide five million euros (US$5.4 million) annually to UNRWA.

It suspended its payments and called for “an independent and thorough investigation”, in a statement from its foreign ministry.

“We must make sure that not a single euro of Finland’s money goes to Hamas or other terrorists,” it said.

Germany announced on Saturday that it too was suspending funding.

So long as the accusation had not been cleared up, “Germany, in agreement with other donor countries” would for the moment withhold approval for further resources, said a foreign ministry statement.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said it was joining the ranks of those suspending funding.

“We are committed to providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population while protecting Israel’s security,” he added.

Switzerland has made annual contributions of around 20 million Swiss francs (US$23 million) to UNRWA.

A foreign ministry statement said Saturday that no decision would be taken on the 2024 payment until the accusations were clarified.

“Switzerland has zero tolerance for all forms of support for terrorism, and for calls to hatred or incitement to violence,” it added.

Dutch Minister for Trade and Development Geoffrey van Leeuwen announced a freeze in funding for UNRWA while the investigation was ongoing, saying the government was “extremely shocked”.

“The accusation is that the attack was committed on Oct 7 with UN money, with our money,” he told public broadcaster NOS on Saturday.

The British government said it was “appalled by the allegations” made by Israel and would be “temporarily pausing any future funding” while the Foreign Office reviewed the claims.

The head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, has vowed to hold “accountable, including through criminal prosecution”, any agency employee found to have been involved in “acts of terror”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres pledged to conduct an “urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The US State Department on Friday suspended payments and welcomed the UN’s announcement of an investigation into the allegations.

It called for “complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks”.

It also underlined that “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support.” — AFP

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