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Israel: parliament approves bill in preliminary reading to ban UNRWA operations

February 15, 2024 at 5:11 pm

A view of destruction at UNRWA headquarters, which provides aid to millions of Palestinians and works under the United Nations, is targeted by Israel in Gaza City, Gaza on February 11, 2024 [Karam Hassan/Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has passed a bill in its preliminary reading intended to ban the operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Israel and the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Anadolu has reported.

The bill was advanced by 33 votes to 10, said Knesset officials. It will now be turned over to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee for deliberation.

The bill needs to pass three more readings before becoming law. If passed, it will prohibit UNRWA from operating within Israel and Israeli-controlled occupied territory, and instruct the police to act in order to enforce this prohibition.

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“UNRWA serves as a platform for incitement and education to hatred of Israel and harm of its Jewish residents,” says an explanatory note to the bill. Israel has pushed for many years for UNRWA’s mandate to be scrapped in the belief that this would mean the end of the legitimate right of return for Palestinian refugees. Such allegations about the agency’s work, therefore, should be regarded with suspicion, insist those who have seen its operations in the field.

There was no comment from the UNRWA on the Israeli bill.

On the day that the International Court of Justice gave its preliminary ruling about Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the apartheid state accused 12 (out of 13,000) UNRWA staffers in the enclave of involvement in the 7 October Hamas attack. Without seeing any proof of the accusation, the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Canada suspended funding for the UN agency.

While UNRWA has said that it is investigating the allegation, it also mourns the 152 members of its staff in Gaza who have been killed by Israel during its ongoing military offensive against the Palestinians.

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