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UNRWA chief deplores 'short-sighted' calls to dismantle agency

February 13, 2024 at 1:02 pm

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on June 12, 2023 [Aşkın Kıyağan/Anadolu Agency]

The head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said today that calls to dismantle the aid agency were short-sighted and that terminating its mandate weakened the world’s ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Reuters reported.

“I have talked to the member states about all these calls to have UNRWA dismantled, to be terminated. I have warned about the impact, I have said that these calls are short-sighted,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said after a meeting with member states at the United Nations in Geneva.

“The impact is not just on the short-term. It not just weakens our collective ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis…”

Israel has said 12 of the agency’s staff took part in the 7 October attack on the towns and villages around Gaza, however it has provided no evidence for its claims. In spite of this, 18 countries have cut funding to UNRWA leaving the agency warning that it will have to cease its vital services at the end of the month.

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.

READ: Absence of evidence: Israel’s case against UNRWA