Over 150 UNRWA workers were killed by Israel in Gaza, the highest ever among UN staffers, yet the U.S. failed to call for a probe or even simply condemn.
The Arab League warned against grave repercussions of an incitement campaign waged against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) coupled with the decision by some countries to cut their financial support to the refugee agency, citing allegations from the Israeli occupation.
Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the systematic incitement orchestrated by the Israeli occupation seeks to diminish UNRWA’s role entirely.
“This campaign is not new and aims to liquidate the work of the agency, which serves millions of Palestinian refugees,” Aboul Gheit said.
The funds to the agency, which is a crucial lifeline for two million people in Gaza, were cut based on unverified reports of 12 employees who “may have been involved” in the Hamas attack on October 7.
There are 30,000 UNRWA members and Israeli interrogation is accusing only 0.04% of them of unspecified crimes.
Aboul Gheit warned that the suspension of funding for the UNRWA amid Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza “means leaving Palestinian civilians to starvation and displacement, and implementing the Israeli plan to eliminate their cause once and for all.”
On Friday, UNRWA reported the dismissal of several employees and initiated an investigation into Israel’s allegations against some of its staff.
Following this development on Friday, the United States declared a suspension of funding to a 30,000-member UNRWA, citing allegations against 12 employees.
Several Western countries besides the U.S., including Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Scotland, also halted their financial support to the agency, whose facilities where displaced Palestinians sought refuge have been repeatedly under relentless Israeli air raids.
Estonia and Japan on Sunday joined the nine other countries in blocking funds to the refugee agency.
Israel has so far killed 152 UNRWA workers in Gaza, the highest death toll among UN staffers ever, however the U.S. failed to call for an immediate interrogation into the case or mere issuance of condemnation.
Aboul Gheit pointed out that UNRWA’s facilities and personnel have been targeted in the attacks as part of an ongoing aggression against the Gaza Strip.
Expressing surprise at the decisions made by some Western nations to suspend funding during this critical period, Aboul Gheit emphasised that the accusations are focused on a limited number of individuals.
He noted that even if these allegations were true, they do not represent the broader nature of UNRWA, which employs nearly 300,000 personnel, most of whom are Palestinians.
The Arab League official went on to reiterate that the ongoing campaign is not a new phenomenon. Over the years, attempts to undermine UNRWA’s operations, serving millions of Palestinians in its five areas of operation, have recurred.
The motive behind such move, according to Aboul Gheit, is to compel the international community to abandon its responsibility towards aiding Palestinian refugees, placing the burden solely on countries standing in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
The head of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) called on donors on Sunday not to cut financial support to the UN agency.
“Cutting off funding will only hurt the people of Gaza who desperately need support,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on X.
Ireland and Norway, however, expressed their continuous support for the refugee agency, saying UNRWA plays a crucial role in helping displaced Palestinians and ones in desperate need of assistance in Gaza.
“We need to distinguish between what individuals may have done, and what UNRWA stands for,” a statement by Norway’s government said, adding the organisation’s tens of thousands of employees in Gaza, the West Bank, and the region play a “crucial role” in giving out aid, saving lives, and protecting basic needs and rights.
“Ireland has no plans to suspend funding for UNRWA’s vital Gaza work,” Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin wrote on X.
The initial U.S. move came a day after an ICJ ruling on Friday determined that Israel must take steps to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza but fell short of ordering the regime to enact a ceasefire or stop its relentless war on Gaza, which has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians since October 7.
Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, said that countries that suspended funding to UNRWA could be “violating their obligations under the Genocide Convention.”
“The day after the ICJ concluded that Israel is plausibly committing Genocide in Gaza, some states decided to defund UNRWA,” Albanese said on X.
Albanese also characterised the decision made by these Western donors as “collectively punishing millions of Palestinians at the most critical time.”
Meanwhile, UNRWA was established to aid refugees from the 1948 war during Israel’s creation, offering educational, healthcare, and humanitarian services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and neighbouring countries.
The cash-strapped UNRWA today supports nearly 6 million Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, as well as in neighbouring Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Neglecting the ICJ’s provisional ruling, Israel continues its genocide in the Gaza Strip, killing over 26,422 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injuring over 65,087 others since October 7.