‘We cannot abandon the people of Gaza’: UN agency and NGO chiefs unite in appeal for UNRWA


Deadly clashes and shelling continued in Khan Younis in southern Gaza overnight into Wednesday as top UN humanitarians and NGO chiefs warned of the “catastrophic consequences” of defunding UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees facing allegations of collusion with Hamas.

Despite the “horrifying” allegations that 12 UNWRA staff were involved in the Hamas-led terror attacks on Israel on 7 October, “we must not prevent an entire organization from delivering on its mandate to serve people in desperate need”, said the UN-led group of aid agencies, known collectively as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).

Regional collapse

“Withdrawing funds from UNRWAwould result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the occupied Palestinian territory and across the region,” the IASC panel warned.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless and “on the brink of famine”, the IASC Principals said, since Israeli bombardment and a ground invasion began after the Palestinian militants butchered some 1,200 people in Israeli communities and took more than 250 others hostage.

Historic role

UNRWA – the largest aid agency in Gaza whose key role in education, healthcare and more in the enclave dates back to 1949 – provides a lifeline to more than two million people in the Strip. 

Its future is in jeopardy after several major donors halted funds pending probes into Israel’s allegations that 12 of the agency’s 30,000 staff played a role in the 7 October attacks. 

Probe activated

A full and urgent investigation is already underway by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) - the highest investigative body in the UN system – the IASC chiefs said, noting in addition that UNRWA had announced an independent review of its operations.

“Decisions by various Member States to pause funds for UNRWA will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza,” the IASC statement continued. “No other entity has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of assistance that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need.”

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