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More countries pause funds for UN Palestinian agency

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Six European countries paused funding for the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) on Saturday, following allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland on Saturday joined the United States, Australia and Canada in pausing funding to the aid agency, a critical source of support for people in Gaza, after the allegations by Israel.

“Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment,” Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, said on X. “This stains all of us.”

The agency said on Friday it had opened an investigation into several employees and severed ties with those people.

Encouraging more donor suspensions, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said UNRWA should be replaced once fighting in the enclave dies down and accused it of ties to Islamist militants in Gaza.

“In Gaza’s rebuilding, @UNRWA must be replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development,” he added on X.

Deputy U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq, asked about Katz’s remarks, said: “We are not responding to rhetoric. UNRWA overall had had a strong record, which we have repeatedly underscored.”

Lazzarini said the decision by the nine countries threatened its humanitarian work across the region, especially in Gaza.

“It is shocking to see a suspension of funds to the Agency in reaction to allegations against a small group of staff, especially given the immediate action that UNRWA took by terminating their contracts and asking for a transparent independent investigation,” he said in a statement.

The Palestinian foreign ministry criticised what it described as an Israeli campaign against UNRWA, and Hamas condemned the termination of employee contracts “based on information derived from the Zionist enemy”. (Reuters)

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