Thursday, July 25, 2024

UNRWA: Sweden and Canada resume funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees


Image source, Getty Images

Sweden and Canada said they would resume aid payments to UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees.

These countries were among 16 countries that suspended their funding after Israel accused at least 12 UNRWA employees of involvement in the October 7 attack by Hamas.

The United Nations is investigating, and the French Foreign Minister is leading the review.

Sweden said on Saturday it would send 200 million kroner (£15 million; $19 million) initially, after UNRWA agreed to more controls on its spending and staff.

She said in a statement, “The government has allocated 400 million kroner to UNRWA for the year 2024. Today’s decision relates to a first payment of 200 million kroner.”

This comes after Canada said on Friday it would restart funding for UNRWA while investigations into agency staff continue.

On October 7, Hamas gunmen stormed the Gaza border into Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostage.

In response, Israel launched a campaign of air strikes and a ground invasion of territory.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in the Strip says more than 30,900 people have been killed since then in Gaza, and the amount of aid reaching civilians has declined.

The United Nations has warned that a quarter of the Strip's population is on the brink of famine and that children are starving to death.

Its president, Philippe Lazzarini, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that donors would start funding it again within weeks.

He said the agency was “at risk of death” after major donor countries halted its funding following allegations in late January that a number of staff were involved in the October 7 attack. Within days, Lazzarini said an investigation was launched, and “to protect the agency’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance,” those employees were fired.

“What is at stake is the short-term fate of the Palestinians today in Gaza, who are going through an absolutely unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” Lazzarini said.

The European Commission said earlier this month that it would release 50 million euros in funding for UNRWA.

Data for 2022 show that Sweden is the fourth largest contributor to the agency's budget, and Canada is the eleventh largest.

Canada's decision was announced in a statement issued on Friday by Canadian Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen.

He said this aimed to “make greater efforts to respond to the urgent needs of Palestinian civilians” and “in recognition of the ongoing robust investigation process.”

The Canadian Armed Forces will also donate approximately 300 cargo parachutes to Jordan, so they can be used to airdrop supplies to Gaza.

At the same time, a draft internal document prepared by UNRWA and seen by the BBC detailed widespread violations against Palestinians, including UNRWA employees who were released from Israeli prisons in Gaza.

In the document, former detainees describe a wide range of ill-treatment.

In a statement provided to the BBC, the IDF rejected specific allegations and said: “Ill-treatment of detainees during their detention or during interrogation violates the IDF’s values ​​and is inconsistent with the IDF and is therefore strictly prohibited.”



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