The government is facing backlash after a decision to halt funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) , following allegations its staff were involved in Hamas’ 7th October attack on Israel.
In a post on X, CEO Patrick Watt said: “Allegations against individuals working for UNWRA, however serious, cannot justify collective punishment of Palestinian people through the withdrawal of aid. The UK govt has got this call badly wrong.”
More than ten countries including the UK, US, Canada and Germany have paused funding to the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees – the biggest UN agency operating in Gaza, following allegations against 12 members of UNRWA staff.
Together the countries provided over 60 per cent of the UNRWA’s 2022 budget.
The dozen employees are accused of involvement in the 2023 attack on Israel, in which Hamas killed over 1,200 people and took some 240 people hostage. The 12 UNRWA staff are alleged to be involved in kidnappings and assisting in abductions and attacks, according to an Israeli dossier seen by Reuters.
Nine of the 12 accused have been sacked by the agency, while two are reported to have died and one is unidentified.
Other international aid agencies have also taken issue at the move to suspend funding. In a joint statement, a coalition of 21 agencies have expressed “deep concern” and “outrage” at the suspensions amid a growing humanitarian crisis in the region.
“The suspension of funding by donor states will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians, over half of whom are children, who rely on UNRWA aid in Gaza,” the statement reads.
“We are shocked by the reckless decision to cut a lifeline for an entire population by some of the very countries that had called for aid in Gaza to be stepped up and for humanitarians to be protected while doing their job.”
The coalition is urging countries to reverse their funding freezes to “uphold their duties towards the Palestinian people.”
The UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres has said he’s “horrified” by the allegations but has appealed to donor countries to continue funding the UNRWA to ensure the needs of desperate Palestinians are met.
The UNRWA has ordered an investigation into the allegations.