Israel vowed to halt UN agency activities in Gaza;  It blames Hamas for the attack.

 – Gudstory

Israel vowed to halt UN agency activities in Gaza; It blames Hamas for the attack. – Gudstory

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UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, said on Friday it had fired several staff over Israel’s allegations, promising a thorough investigation into the claims, which were not specified.

Donors including Australia, Canada and Italy have followed the United States, which said on Friday it had suspended additional funding to the agency over the allegations.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Twitter, “UNRWA will not be part of the next day.” He said he was trying to garner support from the United States, the European Union and other major donors to the agency.

Hamas on Saturday condemned Israeli “threats” against UNRWA, urging the United Nations and other international organizations “not to succumb to threats and blackmail.”

Relations between Israel and UNRWA have deteriorated in recent days, with the UN agency saying tanks shelled a shelter for displaced people in Gaza’s main southern city of Khan Younis.

The agency said thousands of displaced people were registered at shelters and that Wednesday’s tank shelling killed 13 people.

Asked about the incident, the Israeli military said, “A thorough review of the operations of forces in the surrounding area is underway”, adding that it was investigating the possibility that the attack was “the result of Hamas fire”. .

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini described Wednesday’s bombing as a “gross disregard for the basic rules of war”, saying the complex was clearly marked as a UN facility and its coordinates were shared with Israeli authorities.

The Israeli army is the only army known to operate tanks in the Gaza Strip.

– ‘vital role’ –

The war in Gaza erupted on October 7 with unprecedented attacks by Hamas, resulting in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

The militants also captured about 250 hostages and Israel says about 132 of them remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead detainees.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas and Gaza’s health ministry says Israeli military strikes have killed at least 26,257 people, about 70 percent of them women and children.

Before the fighting began, UNRWA struggled to meet funding needs.

The agency’s long-term budget shortfall worsened dramatically in 2018 when former US President Donald Trump cut support to the agency.

But the administration of US President Joe Biden has fully restored support, providing $340 million in 2022, making it the agency’s largest donor.

The US State Department said on Friday it had “temporarily paused additional funding” to the agency while it reviews the claims as well as a UN plan to address the concerns.

The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell on Friday praised the agency for the “crucial role it has played for many years in supporting vulnerable Palestinian refugees.”

But he said the bloc expected “full transparency on the allegations” as well as “immediate action against the staff involved.”

Italy on Saturday became the latest country to halt funding to the agency, with Australia and Canada saying they had also suspended their funding.

The Palestinian Authority urged donors to withdraw their suspension, calling on Saturday for “maximum support for this international organization and not to stop supporting and assisting it.”

UNRWA had no reaction on Saturday to the announcement of the fund’s suspension.

Johan Soufi, a lawyer and former director of UNRWA’s legal office in Gaza, told AFP that the agency “has always had a zero-tolerance policy for incitement to violence and hatred”.

He said, “Sanctioning UNRWA for the alleged responsibility of a few staff who are barely keeping the entire population of Gaza alive is tantamount to collectively punishing the population of Gaza, who is living in catastrophic humanitarian conditions. “

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Published: 27 January 2024, 07:56 PM IST


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