The United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is facing controversy following Israel’s report that 12 of its employees were directly involved in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. This has led 16 nations to suspend funding to UNRWA, which operates in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging donor nations to continue their support for UNRWA, emphasizing its crucial role in the humanitarian response in Gaza.
Established in 1949 after the first Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA’s mission remains focused on assisting Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. It provides food, medicine, education, healthcare, social services, and emergency assistance in conflict situations.
The agency’s mandate initially covered 750,000 Palestinian refugees, but after the 1967 Six-Day War, it expanded to include those affected by ongoing Middle East conflicts, totaling nearly 6 million eligible individuals. Funding for UNRWA comes from donations by U.N. member states, some of which have been suspended following accusations of terrorist activities by UNRWA workers.
Israel’s report accuses 12 UNRWA workers of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack, leading to the suspension of financial support from 16 nations. The UNRWA fired 11 identified employees, while one is reported dead.
The agency, facing a funding shortage, stated that it only has enough resources to operate until the end of February 2022. In 2022, UNRWA obtained $1.17 billion in pledged support, $44.6 million from the United Nations and U.N. entities, and $15.4 million from private partnerships.
Other relief agencies, such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and UNICEF, are also providing aid to Palestinian refugees in Gaza.