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UN Palestinian refugee agency says it has funds to operate until end-May

March 26, 2024 at 5:52 pm

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini speaks during a press conference at the Brussels, on February 12, 2023 [KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images]

The UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) has sufficient funds to run its operations until the end of May after many donors paused their funding over Israeli accusations that some staff took part in Hamas’s 7 October attack, UNRWA’s head said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

“What I can say today is that we can run our operation until the end of May, whereas a month ago I had just the visibility for the next week or two weeks,” UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, told Reuters in Geneva.

“But that shows also how bad the financial situation of the organisation is.”

UNRWA,  which provides aid and essential services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and across the region, has been in crisis since Israel accused 12 of its 13,000 staff in Gaza of involvement in the 7 October attack on Israel that triggered the war in the Palestinian enclave.

The accusations prompted several countries, including the United States, to pause funding. Many countries, including Canada, Australia, Finland and Sweden, have since resumed their contributions.

“I’m hopeful that more of them will come back,” Lazzarini said of donors.

Israel has informed the UN that it will no longer approve UNRWA food convoys to the north of Gaza, where famine is likely to occur by May, according to a UN-backed report published last week. An Israeli government spokesman said on Monday Israel would stop working with UNRWA altogether in Gaza.

Lazzarini described Israel’s decision not to allow UNRWA food convoys to northern Gaza as designed to “prevent people in danger of death” from surviving.

“The plan B is to go back to plan A. It is of utmost importance that convoys have access to the north,” Lazzarini said. “We will definitely be looking at partnerships, who else can do it on our behalf. Our focus is the people in danger of death right now in the north of Gaza.”

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.

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