Hamas attack: US freezes UNRWA funding over staff involvement

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The United States, Germany and the European Union are some of UNRWA's largest donors

The United States is suspending funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for the Palestinians, over alleged involvement of staff in the October 7 Hamas attack.

UNRWA says it has fired several people and ordered an investigation into the information provided by Israel.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified by this news” and called for a swift investigation.

Hamas killed 1,300 people, mostly civilians, in an unprecedented attack.

Another 250 people were taken hostage. The events prompted Israel's retaliatory attacks on Hamas in Gaza, which killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to the territory's Hamas-run health ministry.

Announcing its decision to temporarily freeze funding, the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by allegations of UN staff involvement in the attacks.

The head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, said on Friday that Israel had provided his organization with “information that several UNRWA staff were allegedly involved in the brutal attacks on Israel on 7 October”.

He said UNRWA had put several staff under investigation and severed ties with them.

An adviser to the Israeli prime minister told the BBC that the Hamas attacks on October 7 were “complicit”. [UNRWA] Salary”.

Mark Regev said there were reports that teachers working in UNRWA schools “openly celebrated” the October 7 attacks.

He also mentioned an Israeli hostage who, when released, said he was “being held in the house of someone who worked for UNRWA”.

“They have a union controlled by Hamas, and I think it's time for the UN to investigate these links between UNRWA and Hamas,” he added.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said he had asked Mr Lazzarini to investigate the matter “quickly”.

He added that the investigation should ensure that any UNRWA employee “shown to have participated in or supported” the October 7 attack was dismissed and referred for possible criminal prosecution.

Washington said it welcomed Mr Guterres' call for a “full and swift investigation”.

The European Union said in a statement that it was “extremely concerned” by the allegations and would assess further action “based on the results of a full and comprehensive investigation”.

The United States, Germany and the European Union are some of UNRWA's largest donors.

The agency provides education, health and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

However, it says nearly three-quarters of the roughly 1.7 million people displaced by the 12-week conflict – are struggling to get humanitarian aid.

Several UN missions where Gazans took refuge from Israeli airstrikes.

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