Norway urges donors to resume funding to UN agency for Palestinians

‘Situation is catastrophic' in Gaza, warns Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide

09:58 - 24/04/2024 Çarşamba
File photo
File photo

Norway urged international donors Tuesday to restore aid to the UN Agency for Palestinians Refugees (UNRWA) after an independent report found Israel failed to provide evidence that UNRWA staffers were involved in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

"I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding," Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement.

“I am very pleased that countries like Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan and Sweden have already reversed their decisions and resumed funding to UNRWA," he said.

Eide welcomed the report by the Independent Commission of Inquiry which has found “Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence” for the claim the aid agency employs more than 400 “terrorists.”

At least 17 countries, including the US, UK, Australia and many EU countries, halted payments to UNRWA, following the accusation. But some nations have since reversed their decisions but many are still withholding funds.

Since Israel launched a brutal onslaught against the Gaza Strip in early October, more than 34,000 victims have been killed, mostly women and children, while tens of thousands are injured, missing or uncounted for, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini accused Tel Aviv of having a “long-term political goal” of “destroying” the UN agency, along with the idea that Palestinians are refugees who do not have a right to return home, the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported.

“At the moment, we are dealing with an expanded, concentrated Israeli campaign, which is aimed at destroying UNRWA,” said Lazzarini.

The UN warned the Security Council in March of “imminent famine in the Gaza Strip,” urging immediate action to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the territory where many Council members warned that Israel is using “hunger as a weapon of war.”

More than six months into the onslaught, which came after the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, launched a surprise attack that Israel said killed less than 1,200 people, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins, pushing 85% of the enclave's population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine, according to the UN.

“The situation is catastrophic. Gaza is in ruins. The population lacks everything, and many are starving. UNRWA's presence is also crucial for other humanitarian organizations' efforts in Gaza,” warned Eide.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

UNRWA was created by the UN General Assembly more than 70 years ago to assist Palestinians who were forcibly displaced from their land.

The agency provides crucial support to millions of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and other areas where large numbers of registered Palestinians reside.

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