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Countries halt funding to UN agency in Gaza

By AFP - Jan 27,2024 - Last updated at Jan 27,2024

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 October 7 surprise attack.

UNRWA responded saying it had fired several staff over Israel’s accusations, promising a thorough investigation into the claims, which were not specified, while Israel 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: 

 

Australia 

 

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

 

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

 

Finland, which had a four-year agreement to provide 5 million euros ($5.4 million) annually to UNRWA, suspended its payments and called for an “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. 

 

Italy 

 

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said it was joining the ranks of those suspending funding, adding, “We are committed to providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population while protecting Israel’s security.”

 

Switzerland

 

Switzerland, which has made annual contributions of around 20 million Swiss francs ($23 million) to UNRWA, said Saturday 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.

 

United Kingdom

 

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. 

 

United Nations

 

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.

 

United States 

 

The US State Department on Friday suspended payments and welcomed the UN’s announcement of an investigation into the allegations, and called for “complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks”.

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