Mr. Dujarric said the UN humanitarian coordination agency, OCHA, reported that Israel issued a new evacuation order in western Gaza City, which had been home to 300,000 civilians before the crisis began, and that a trend since mid-January had seen heightened hostilities and excessive delays for aid convoys.“While we’re addressing these concerns very actively, the humanitarian work needs to go on,” UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at the Noon Briefing at Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.Emphasizing that every year, UNRWA shares with Israel and the Palestinian Authority its staff member lists for Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, Mr. Dujarric said “no concerns” had been raised by either.Given that the ICJ has considered there is a serious risk of genocide in the Gaza Strip, he said one of the reasons is the worsening of conditions that could spell further physical destruction of part of Gaza’s population.
‘The UN does not work with Hamas’
“We shouldn’t let this information undermine the efforts that UNRWA is making to provide lifesaving assistance,” she said, noting that the UN agency has “literally saved thousands of lives”.On the heels of media reports of Washington’s announcement to withhold about million now and suspend funding until the investigation is completed, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke to reporters outside the Security Council Chamber on Tuesday.“UNRWA does not work with Hamas,” he said. “We have operational contact with de facto authorities like in other countries.”Food aid arrives at an UNRWA school-turned-shelter in Gaza.
What’s on the line?
Several major donors have halted funds pending probes into Israel’s allegations late last week that 12 of UNRWA’s 30,000 staff members colluded with Hamas in the 7 October attacks that left 1,200 Israelis dead and 250 taken hostage. UNRWA launched an independent review of the agency’s humanitarian operations on 17 January.“Civilians in Gaza who are suffering, need the continued support of everyone,” he said. “The critical humanitarian work the UN does not only in Gaza, in the region, needs to be supported. People’s lives depend on it.”Later today, the UN Secretary-General will meet with 35 Member States and the European Union to discuss UNRWA, brief them on the allegations and listen to their concerns, he said.Referring to the new funding cuts, he said “this decision might have direct consequences.”“Our aim is for a humanitarian ceasefire, for greater volume and quality of aid going in, and for a political solution that would lead us back to the two-State solution,” the UN Spokesperson said.
Looming funding cuts
Major donors, including the United States, Canada and Germany, announced they would suspend funding to UNRWA during the probes.Aid agencies have warned there is “simply not enough food”, with some raising alarms of looming famine, disease and displacement in the enclave.The more serious, immediate risk is for the population: no access to water, to food, to medical assistance, to any humanitarian relief, as UNRWA is the main provider of aid, he warned.Without funding, UNRWA cannot discharge its task of providing assistance, the agency’s former head of legal affairs, Johan Sufi, told UN News on Monday.
‘There has to be accountability’: US
With over 26,000 dead and as the war spirals into ever deepening suffering for civilians in Gaza caught between the warring sides, concerns on the ground are rising.“There has to be accountability for anyone who participated in the attacks on October 7, but we also know that UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians,” she said.Welcoming the UN’s decision to conduct an investigation, she said the US Government has reached out to Israel for further information.
‘Life or death’ consequences
“We are literally talking about a life or death matter,” he said.UNRWA operates primarily on donations, with its most recent records showing .1 billion in pledges for its programmes for Palestine refugees.As for UNRWA, tasked with serving more than 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza, its work will be affected, he said.According to UNRWA records from 2022, the United States is the largest donor, having contributed almost $ 344 million, or about one third of the agency’s annual operating budget.[embedded content]
“We need to see fundamental changes before we can resume providing funding,” she continued, adding that she will raise her delegation’s concerns when meeting with the UN Secretary-General Tuesday afternoon.The UN has yet to receive any reports directly from Israel about the allegations in writing, he said. Meanwhile, a thorough investigation is under way and the UN has fired several agency staff members implicated in the allegations. Media reports indicate that two of the suspects are dead.