UNRWA Hamas attack claims: UK becomes latest country to pause funding for agency

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UNRWA Hamas attack claims: UK becomes latest country to pause funding for agency

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Image caption: GETTY IMAGES, A UNRWA trailer carrying fuel heads for Gaza at the Rafah Border Crossing.

By Sarah Fowler & Lipika Pelham
BBC News

The UK has become the latest country to pause funding for the UN agency for Palestinians, UNRWA.

It comes after the agency announced the sacking of several of its staff over allegations of involvement in the 7 October Hamas attacks.

The UK government said it is "appalled" by the allegations made by Israel.

The US, Australia, Italy and Canada have already suspended additional funding to the UN agency.

UNRWA says it has ordered an investigation into information supplied by Israel.

"The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK Government has repeatedly condemned," the UK Foreign Office said in a statement.

"The UK is temporarily pausing any future funding of UNWRA whilst we review these concerning allegations," it added.

Earlier, the US State Department announced that it was suspending additional funding to the UN agency, saying it was "extremely troubled" by the allegations of UN staff involvement in the attacks.

The EU also said that it would assess further steps "based on the result of the full and comprehensive investigation".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "horrified by this news".

The head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, said a full investigation into the allegations was being carried out "to establish the truth without delay."

Mr Lazzarini added: "To protect the agency's ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members."

He said any staff found to have been involved in "acts of terror" would be held accountable.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, said that her country would "engage closely with UNRWA on investigations" and was consulting its international partners.

Ms Wong added: "Australia will continue to support the people of Gaza and work to provide humanitarian assistance. We reiterate our calls for civilians to be protected, and for humanitarian access."

This comes just days after Ms Wong announced a near doubling of the humanitarian funding directed to "conflict-affected populations", "with a focus on women and children", in the occupied Palestinian territories.

She pledged $21.5m (£18.4m) in new funding, including $6m for UNRWA.

Israel's Foreign Minister, Israel Katz said he aimed to stop UNRWA operating in Gaza after the war. He said that he would try to gather support from the US, EU and other major donors to the agency.

The Palestinian Authority's minister for civilian affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, said the decision by some countries to pause support for the vital UN agency "entails great political and humanitarian relief risks".

Mr al-Sheikh urged Western donors to immediately reverse their decision, adding: "We need the maximum support for this international organisation."

In a post on Telegram, Hamas's press office said the group urged the UN and the international organisations "to not cave in to the threats and blackmail" from Israel.

Hamas killed 1,300 people, mostly civilians, in the unprecedented attack on southern Israeli communities on 7 October last year.

More information here at BBC news.
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