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UN Urges Reversal of Funds Halt by 9 Nations as Famine Looms | World News – Times of India

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GENEVA: UN officials implored countries to reconsider a pause in funding for the UN agency for Palestinians on Sunday, vowing that any staff found to be involved in Hamas’ attack on Israel would be punished and warning that aid for some two million people in Gaza was at stake. At least 9 nations have paused funding for the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) following allegations by Israel that a dozen of its 13,000 staff in Gaza were involved in the Oct 7 attack.
The US, which is the agency’s largest donor, cut funding over the weekend, followed by eight other countries, including the UK, Germany and Italy. Together, the nine nations provided nearly 60% of UNRWA’s budget in 2022. On Sunday, the French foreign ministry announced that France has not planned a new payment to fund UNRWA in the first quarter of 2024, but would decide when the time comes what action to take in conjunction with UN and its main donors. France called the allegations “exceptionally serious”. However, Norway and Ireland said they would continue funding.
“While I understand their concerns – I was myself horrified by these accusations – I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations,” UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said, vowing to hold to account “any UN employee involved in acts of terror”. He said this could include criminal prosecution – a rare move within the global body since most staff enjoy functional immunity. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, also urged countries to “reconsider their decisions before UNRWA is forced to suspend its humanitarian response”. A UN investigation into the Israeli allegations is currently under way.
More than 26,000 people have been killed in Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza. With flows of aid like food and medicine into the territory just a trickle of pre-conflict levels, deaths from preventable diseases as well as the risk of famine are growing, aid officials say. Since the Oct 7 attacks, which killed 1,200 people in Israel, most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have become reliant on the aid UNRWA provides. A UN-appointed expert on the right to food warned that funding cuts meant that famine was now “inevitable” in Gaza.
Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said the pause would lead to more suffering for Palestinians. “Is this action linked to the policy of collective punishment used against civilians in Gaza?” he said. The Turkish foreign ministry also urged countries that had paused funding to reconsider their move. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of leading an oppressive campaign against the agency. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the Israeli accusations against UNRWA were a challenge to the International Court of Justice’s decision that ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza.
UNRWA’s role has long been criticised by Israel which alleges it has supported Hamas for years – an allegation the agency denies. Israel has not yet publicly given details of UNRWA staff members’ alleged involvement in the attack on Israel. Guterres said 12 staff members had been implicated and that nine had been terminated, one was dead and the identities of the other two were being clarified. UNRWA was set up to help refugees of the 1948 war at Israel’s founding and provides education, health and aid services to Palestinians in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Even before the conflict, UNRWA was struggling to secure funds and warned that it was on the verge of collapse. Many of its 13,000 employees are refugees and at least 150 have died since the war began.

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