U.S. halts aid to U.N. body for Palestinians following accusations staff participated in Hamas assault

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Suspension of U.N. Agency Staffers Over Attack Allegations

In recent news, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, commonly known by the acronym UNRWA, has terminated contracts of several employees in Gaza who were suspected of participating in an October assault on southern Israel. This decision follows a subsequent halt in funding by the United States, the agency’s primary donor.

Terminating the Employees

Philippe Lazzarini, the chief of UNRWA, announced the dismissal of several employees after Israel alleged their involvement in the conflict. According to the U.S. State Department, a dozen employees face these allegations. The majority of UNRWA’s staff in Gaza are Palestinians, totaling 13,000 people, including teachers, medical staff, and aid workers.

UNRWA’s Response to the Allegations

Lazzarini expressed shock at the charges and vowed stiff penalties for any employee found guilty, including criminal prosecution. He reiterated the agency’s strong condemnation of the October 7 attack and demanded the unconditional release of all Israeli hostages.

Consequences of the War

Since the onset of the war, Israeli assaults have claimed the lives of over 26,000 Palestinians and injured at least 64,400 others, according to data from Gaza’s Health Ministry. More than 150 UNRWA employees are among the deceased, marking the highest toll suffered by the world body in any conflict. As a result of the war, over 1.7 million people have been displaced, with many seeking refuge in shelters run by UNRWA.

US Reactions to the Allegations

The U.S. State Department expressed its concern over the allegations against the UNRWA staffers and has temporarily halted additional funding for the agency. The U.S. has been the largest donor to the agency, providing it with $340 million in 2022 and several hundred million in 2023.

Israel Rejects a Return of Palestinian Refugees

UNRWA was established to support millions of Palestinians across the Middle East who fled or were forced from properties within Israel during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948. However, Israel refuses their return. Critics, including those in the U.S. Congress, allege that UNRWA allows anti-Israeli incitement to be taught in its many schools and that some staff members collaborate with Hamas. The Trump administration had suspended funding to the agency in 2018, but the funds have been restored under President Joe Biden.

On-going Fighting in Southern Gaza

Increased fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli forces led to mass evacuation of Palestinians from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. Israeli military ordered residents of three Khan Younis neighbourhoods and the refugee camp in the city to evacuate to a coastal area. Further Israeli airstrikes targeted the Nuseirat urban refugee camp in central Gaza, causing the death of at least 15 people.

Food Supply Problems in Gaza City

Uday Samir, a 23-year old Gaza City native, stated that many of the basic foods such as flour, lentils and rice are now impossible to find across the city. Aid groups have faced challenges in delivering food, medications, and other supplies to northern Gaza due to fighting and Israeli restrictions.

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