UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres launches an appeal to “guarantee the continuity” of UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, after nine countries – including Italy, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Finland, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands – have suspended their funding due to accusations made against some members of the organization of being involved in the Hamas raid on 7 October 2023. “While I understand their concerns, and I too was horrified by these accusations – we read in a note from Guterres – I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their funding to at least guarantee the continuity of UNRWA operations”. Unwelcome words to the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, who attacked Guterres: “He demonstrates once again that the life and safety of Israeli citizens are not really important to him” (WAR IN GAZA, LIVE UPDATES).
Guterres’ appeal: “UNRWA guarantees daily survival of 2 million civilians”
Guterres explains that the agency’s activities are “essential” for the “daily survival” of at least “two million” Palestinian civilians. While specifying how “the alleged despicable actions” of the employees who are allegedly involved in the terrorist attack of 7 October must “have consequences”, the UN secretary general wanted to highlight that “the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many of whom are in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized ” and that “the urgent needs of the desperate populations they care for must be met.”
Gilad: “Evidence of UNRWA involvement in terrorism ignored for years”
The Israeli ambassador Gilad, as the newspaper writes Yedioth Ahronoth, criticizes Guterres for years of ignoring “evidence presented to him personally of UNRWA support and involvement in incitement and terrorism.” Not only that: “Before conducting a full investigation to identify all Hamas terrorists and murderers in the organization, he is focusing on raising funds for a murderous and terrorist organization.”
There are 12 UNRWA employees involved in the case
A total of 12 agency employees were affected by “extremely serious accusations” which led to the launch of an internal investigation within the United Nations itself. Nine of them, Guterres specified, were fired and one was killed. However, they are still “in the clarification phase”.
For weeks, Israel had continued to claim that UNRWA personnel had played a role in the Hamas attacks. The news of the dismissals – which according to Hamas must be revoked because they were motivated only “on the basis of information coming from the Zionist enemy” – arrived on 26 January. After a few hours, the United States was the first to announce that it wanted to suspend funding to UNRWA. Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s commissioner general, called the nine countries’ decision to block the funding “shocking”, “especially considering the immediate action taken by UNRWA by terminating their contracts and calling for a transparent and independent investigation.”