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UN aid chief says attempts to expel UNRWA from Gaza must stop

April 2, 2024 at 10:56 am

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths speaks during a press conference on the situation in Gaza, at UN Building in Geneva, on November 15, 2023 [JEAN-GUY PYTHON/AFP via Getty Images]

UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths has called for an end to “attempts to expel the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) from the Gaza Strip”, saying “assistance cannot be provided without it”.

“Attempts to sideline @UNRWA must stop. UNRWA is the backbone of the humanitarian operation in Gaza. Any effort to distribute aid without them is simply doomed to fail,” Griffiths wrote on X.

“No other agency has the same reach, experience or community trust needed to do the job. Attempts to remove UNRWA must stop. UNRWA is the backbone of humanitarian operations in Gaza. Any attempt to distribute aid without it is doomed to failure,” he added.

Earlier, the Guardian reported that Israel had submitted to the United Nations a proposal to dissolve UNRWA.

According to the paper, the Israeli proposal includes transferring several hundred UNRWA employees to another UN organisation, such as the WFP or to a new entity created specifically to distribute food aid in Gaza.

Israel insists that it is prepared to allow large amounts of aid into the besieged Gaza Strip and its decision not to cooperate with UNRWA severely affects the delivery.

Israel has long sought to discredit and dismantle UNRWA, 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: Israel proposes plan to dismantle UNRWA