Photo: Ramez Habboub Associated Press Relations between Israel and UNRWA had further deteriorated in recent days, when the UN accused two Israeli tanks of firing on Wednesday at an UNRWA training center, which had been transformed into a shelter since the start of the war. , in Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Palestinians are seen here trying to put out a fire in this building on Wednesday.
Didier Lauras – Agence France-Presse in Jerusalem
- Middle East
The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), long in the sights of Israeli authorities, has parted ways with several employees accused of being involved in the Hamas attack on October 7, an announcement immediately followed by the suspension of American funds.
On Friday, the United Nations organization at the heart of the distribution of aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip and under the fire of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement announced that it had received information from Israel over the “alleged involvement of several of its employees” in the attack.
“To protect the agency's ability to deliver humanitarian aid, I have decided to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and open an investigation,” the agency head said in a statement. , Philippe Lazzarini.
“Any employee who has been involved in acts of terrorism will be held accountable, including through legal action. »
Washington cuts funds
A few minutes later, a scathing response came from Washington, which indicated that it would “temporarily” suspend any additional funding to the UN agency.
The United States “is extremely concerned by accusations that 12 UNRWA employees may have been involved in the attack […],” State Department spokesperson said Matthew Miller in a press release.
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The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, spoke with the UN Secretary General, Antònio Guterres, to “highlight the need for a rapid and thorough investigation into this matter” .
The Israeli Foreign Ministry, for its part, demanded a “deep internal review of the activities of Hamas and other terrorist organizations” within UNRWA.
The blow is hard for the agency, regularly accused by Israel of corruption and collusion with Hamas, which it systematically defends.
The United States, the main contributor, had already withdrawn its funding under the Trump administration, which deemed its activities “irreparably biased”. The arrival of Joe Biden offered him a breath of fresh air, with the restoration announced in 2021 of aid of 340 million dollars.
Degraded relations with Israel
Relations between Israel and UNRWA had further deteriorated in recent days, when the UN accused two Israeli tanks of firing on an UNRWA training center in Khan Yunis on Wednesday , in the south of the Gaza Strip.
Transformed into a shelter since the start of the war, it shelters tens of thousands of displaced people. In these strikes, 13 people were killed and more than 56 were injured, including 21 in critical condition, according to the agency.
Philippe Lazzarini denounced a “flagrant violation of the fundamental rules of war”. The Israeli army, for its part, announced a “thorough review” of its operations in the area concerned, without ruling out the possibility of a Hamas strike. The Israeli army is the only force in the Gaza Strip to deploy tanks.
The UN also claimed that the Israeli army had ordered the evacuation of the refuge by 5:00 p.m. local time this Friday, which the army denied. At the same time, they published orders on social networks to evacuate certain areas of Khan Younes where telecommunications have been limited and where fighting has intensified in recent days.
The AFP was unable to move near the UN building to assess the situation.
On Friday, UNRWA insisted that “more than 2 million people in Gaza depend on the life-saving aid the agency has provided since the war began” and that “anyone betrays the fundamental values of the United Nations and betrays those we serve in Gaza, in the region and elsewhere in the world.”