Israel has announced its intention to prevent the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from operating in Gaza after the war.
The decision follows the dismissal of several UNRWA staff members due to accusations related to the October 7 attack.
UNRWA confirmed the termination of staff employment on Friday, committing to a detailed investigation into the unspecified allegations made by Israel.
Countries such as Australia, Canada, and Italy, following the United States’ lead, have halted additional funding to the agency.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on X that “UNRWA will not be part of the day after.”
He is actively seeking support from major contributors including the United States and the European Union to back this decision.
Hamas criticized the Israeli stance, urging the UN and other international bodies to resist succumbing to such threats and coercion. Tensions have escalated between Israel and UNRWA, especially after UNRWA reported that its shelter in Khan Yunis, Gaza, had been hit by tank shelling, resulting in 13 deaths.
The Israeli army is conducting a review of the incident, considering the possibility of Hamas involvement in the attack. UNRWA’s chief, Philippe Lazzarini, condemned the shelling, emphasizing the shelter’s UN status and its shared coordinates with Israeli authorities.
The recent Gaza war, triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attacks, led to substantial casualties and the seizure of hostages. Israel has committed to defeating Hamas, while Gaza’s health ministry reports over 26,000 deaths, predominantly women and children, due to the Israeli military offensive.
UNRWA’s financial struggles, exacerbated by the US funding cuts under President Trump, were partially alleviated with President Biden’s administration restoring $340 million in support in 2022. However, the recent allegations have led to a “temporary pause” in additional US funding, pending a review.
EU diplomat Josep Borrell acknowledged UNRWA’s crucial role but expects clarity on the allegations and action against implicated staff. Italy joined Australia and Canada in suspending its funding.
The Palestinian Authority called for continued support for UNRWA, stressing the organization’s significance for the Gazan population. Johann Soufi, a former UNRWA legal office director in Gaza, criticized the collective punishment implied by sanctioning UNRWA and emphasized the agency’s zero-tolerance policy for violence and incitement.