US, UK freeze Gaza funding amid claims of staff involvement in Hamas attack, UN says ‘shocked’

Several European nations have paused funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) following allegations that some agency staff were involved in Hamas attacks on Israel last October

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Several European nations have paused funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) following allegations that some agency staff were involved in Hamas attacks on Israel last October. The funding freeze threatens vital aid for Palestinians in Gaza and has drawn sharp criticism from UN and Palestinian officials.

Funding frozen by countries

On Saturday, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Finland joined the United States, Australia, and Canada in halting financial support for UNRWA, a key provider of food, healthcare, and education for Palestinians. The move came after Israel accused some UNRWA employees of assisting Hamas militants during clashes along the Israel-Gaza border on October 7.

UNRWA immediately launched an investigation into the allegations and cut ties with implicated staff. But European donors said the claims warranted a freeze on funding until the probe is completed. UN and Palestinian leaders warned the suspensions jeopardize critical humanitarian relief efforts, especially in Gaza, home to over 2 million Palestinians.

Aid official cecries "collective Punishment"

UNRWA condemns Gaza fund freeze

"Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment," said Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA's commissioner-general, wrote on X. "This stains all of us."

Lazzarini asserted that while a small number of employees may have engaged in "acts of terror," the agency as a whole has "had a strong record." He said the rushed decision to suspend funding threatens UNRWA's ability to provide food, healthcare, and education to Palestinians across the region.

Israel calls for dismantling of agency

Some Israeli officials went further, saying the allegations prove UNRWA itself has terrorist ties.

"In Gaza's rebuilding, UNRWA must be replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development," Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted Saturday. Katz offered no evidence to support his claim.

A U.N. spokesperson disputed Katz's remarks. "We are not responding to rhetoric," said Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq. "UNRWA overall had had a strong record, which we have repeatedly underscored."

Palestinians allege Israel wanted to dismantle UN agency 

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas also rebuffed the funding cuts. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry alleged Israel has long wanted to dismantle UNRWA and is using the recent allegations as a "pretext."

Hamas called the termination of implicated staff "unjust" and based on "information derived from the Zionist enemy."

The militant group and its allies launched over 4,000 rockets at Israel during 11 days of fighting in October, provoking an Israeli military offensive that leveled buildings and killed over 250 Palestinians.

UNRWA provides support to approximately 5.8 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The agency was established in 1949 following Israel's creation and the mass displacement of Palestinians.