Sweden and Canada resume funding for UN agency for Palestinian refugees

Sweden and Canada have said they will resume aid payments to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

They were among 16 countries that paused funds after Israel accused at least 12 UNRWA staff of involvement in the 7 October attack by Hamas.

The UN is investigating, and France’s foreign minister is leading a review.

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

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

It comes after Canada said on Friday that it would re-start funding for UNRWA while investigations into the agency’s staff continue.

On 7 October, Hamas gunmen stormed across Gaza’s border into Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages.

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

More than 30,900 people have since been killed in Gaza, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says, and the amount of aid reaching civilians has plummeted.

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

UNRWA is the biggest UN agency operating in Gaza. It provides healthcare, education and other humanitarian aid, and employs about 13,000 people there.

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

He said the agency was “at risk of death” after major donor countries suspended funding following allegations in late January that a number of staff members were involved in the 7 October attack. Within days, Mr Lazzarini said an investigation was being carried out, and “to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance” these staff members had been sacked.

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

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

Source: BBC

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