UN chief to meet donor nations after refugee agency accusations

UN chief to meet donor nations after refugee agency accusations
UN chief to meet donor nations after refugee agency accusations

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Smoke billows over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment on January 29, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. ― AFP pic

NEW YORK, Jan 30 ― United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet today with key donors to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees after 12 of its staff were accused by Israel of involvement in the October 7 attacks, his spokesman said.

Several countries, including the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Japan, have announced the suspension of further funding to the agency.

“The secretary-general is personally horrified by the accusations against employees of UNRWA,” Guterres's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said yesterday.

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“But his message to donors ― especially those who have suspended their contributions ― is to at least guarantee the continuity of UNRWA's operations, as we have tens of thousands of dedicated staff working throughout the region.”

Guterres already met with Washington's representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield yesterday, and “he will be hosting a meeting here in New York with the major donors for UNRWA (Tuesday) afternoon here,” Dujarric said.

“The secretary-general has also been engaging with the UNRWA leadership and donors to UNRWA, as well as regional leaders, such as King Abdullah of Jordan, whom he spoke to a short while ago, and President (Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi of Egypt.”

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UNRWA said it has acted promptly over allegations but that cuts in funding will affect ordinary Palestinians.

The UN agency has long been under scrutiny by Israel, which accuses it of systematically going against the country's interests.

In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where 1.5 million displaced people have taken refuge, Palestinians told AFP that the support they received from the agency amounted to a lifeline.

The unprecedented October 7 Hamas attack resulted in about 1,140 deaths, mostly civilians, in southern Israel, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Militants also seized 250 hostages, of whom Israel says around 132 remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28.

Israel's relentless military offensive has killed at least 26,637 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas government's health ministry in the territory.

Israel has vowed to stop the agency's work in Gaza after the war.

The country's Foreign Minister Israel Katz said yesterday he had cancelled a meeting with UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini scheduled for later in the week. ― AFP

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