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Aid organisations condemn cut in funding to UN agency for Palestinian refugees

January 29, 2024 at 8:11 pm

Palestinians, who left their homes and took refuge in Rafah city under hard conditions, carry the flour they received at the area where UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) distributes flour to families as Israeli attacks continue in Rafah of Gaza on January 28, 2024 [Ahmed Zaqout – Anadolu Agency]

In a collective outcry against the suspension of funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), several aid organisations have voiced their deep concern over the perilous situation unfolding in Gaza and the wider region, Anadolu Agency reports.

In a statement, the organisations warned of starvation, the looming spectre of famine and the outbreak of diseases exacerbated by Israel’s continued bombardment and deliberate obstruction of aid access in Gaza.

“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,” it said.

“This decision comes as the International Court of Justice ordered immediate and effective action to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” it added.

The NGOs urged donor states to reaffirm their support for UNRWA and its partners in their critical mission to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians enduring one of the gravest humanitarian crises in recent memory.

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They implored nations to reverse the funding suspensions, fulfil their obligations to the Palestinian people and escalate humanitarian assistance to address the urgent needs in Gaza and the wider region.

At least 12 countries – Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, Finland, Australia, the UK, Netherlands, the US, France, Austria and Japan – have suspended funds for UNRWA, which was established in 1949 to cater to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

UNRWA said it terminated contracts with several employees following the Israeli allegations.

Tel Aviv has allegedly that some of the agency’s employees were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel.

Israel has repeatedly equated UNRWA staff with Hamas members in efforts to discredit them, providing no proof of the claims, while lobbying hard to have UNRWA closed as it is the only UN agency to have a specific mandate to look after the basic needs of Palestinian refugees. If the agency no longer exists, argues Israel, then the refugee issue must no longer exist, and the legitimate right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land will be unnecessary. Israel has denied that right of return since the late 1940s, even though its own membership of the UN was made conditional upon Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to their homes and land.

The Israeli accusations came as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday found South Africa’s claim that Israel is committing genocide plausible. The Court issued an interim order urging Israel to stop obstructing aid deliveries into Gaza and to improve the humanitarian situation.

Flouting the ICJ’s provisional rulings, Israel continues its onslaught on the Gaza Strip where at least 26,637 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and 65,387 others injured since Oct. 7, according to Palestinian health authorities. Israel says nearly 1,200 people have been killed in the Hamas attack.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Israeli offensive has left 85 per cent of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

READ: Gaza death toll from Israel attacks surpasses 26,600