Norway urges UNRWA donors to reflect on fund cut

The attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures…reports Asian Lite News

Norway, one of the few major donors to have maintained aid to the embattled UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, warned other donors Wednesday of the consequences of suspending funding.

“We urge fellow donor countries to reflect on the wider consequences of cutting their funding to UNRWA,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement to AFP.

“UNRWA is a vital lifeline for 1.5 million refugees in Gaza,” he said, adding that “to avoid collectively punishing millions of people, we need to distinguish between what individuals may have done and what UNRWA stands for.”

Thirteen countries, including major donors such as the United States, Germany, Britain and Sweden, have suspended funding to the UN agency over accusations that 12 on its staff members were involved in the October 7 attack by Hamas militants against Israel.

The attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages. Israel says 132 of them remain in Gaza including at least 29 people believed to have been killed.

Following the deadliest attack in Israel’s history, its military launched a withering air, land and sea offensive that has killed at least 26,900 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

The heads of several UN organizations on Wednesday also warned that defunding UNRWA, which has around 30,000 staff members, risked a “catastrophic” humanitarian collapse in Gaza.

‘Defunding UNRWA will have catastrophic consequences’

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday warned that halting funding to the UN Palestinian refugee agency would entail “catastrophic consequences” for people in war-torn Gaza

“Decisions by various countries to pause funds for UNRWA, the largest supplier of humanitarian aid in this crisis, will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“No other entity has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of assistance that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need. We appeal for these announcements to be reconsidered.”

Explosives found hidden in UNRWA sacks

Israeli soldiers in Khan Yunis destroyed an underground weapons factory belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, where weapons were found hidden in sacks belonging to the embattled UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees.

Hidden inside the UNRWA sacks were rockets, anti-tank missiles, mines and explosive charges, the IDF said.

Soldiers also destroyed a rocket-manufacturing lathe and seized Kalashnikov weapons, warheads designed for RPG missiles, cartridges, spray charges, hand grenades and other explosives.

Israel demands that UNRWA be stripped of its authority in Gaza amid revelations that members of the agency’s staff participated in Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel. The US, European Union and 16 other countries have suspended funding for the agency.

Israel provided intelligence incriminating 12 staffers of their participation, including using UNRWA vehicles and facilities as 1,200 Israelis were massacred. The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported that one in 10 UNRWA employees is either an active member or has ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Since October 7, the agency has been under fire numerous times, prompting Knesset lawmakers to reassess Israel’s relationship with UNRWA.

Reports released by IMPACT-SE and UN Watch documented UNRWA employees expressing support for the attacks on social media.

Soldiers found missiles hidden among UNRWA relief supplies while sacks belonging the agency were filled with dirt and used in the lining of tunnels.

Palestinian refugees are the only refugee population with its own dedicated UN agency. The rest of the world’s refugees fall under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Israeli officials have called for UNRWA to be closed and for Palestinian refugees to be brought under the responsibility of the UNHCR.

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