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Australia has resumed funding to UN aid agency (UNRWA) in Gaza

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Australia has restored funding to UNRWA in Gaza after a temporary pause, over allegations UN workers were linked to Hamas.
Australia has restored $6 million of funding to UNRWA in Gaza

Australia will restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.

More than a dozen countries halted funding to the UN agency over allegations some of its workers were involved in Hamas’ 7 October attacks on Israel.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced the pause in UNRWA funding at the end of January as the UN investigated the claims.

Today, the Federal Government said it would restore that funding in response to “a humanitarian situation in Gaza which is dire, and only worsening”.

Background

On 7 October, Hamas launched an attack on Israel. According to data cited by the UN, roughly 1,200 people were killed. Hamas, which Australia lists as a terrorist organisation, captured about 240 hostages and 134 hostages remain captive today.

Israel responded by declaring war and bombarding Gaza. According to data cited by the UN, more than 31,000 Palestinians have now been killed since 7 October. Israel’s war in Gaza has caused a humanitarian crisis, with UN aid teams warning that famine is “imminent”. Israel has said it will not stop fighting until all hostages are returned and Hamas is destroyed.

UNRWA

UNRWA provides healthcare, education, and funding to Palestinian refugees. It employs roughly 13,000 people in Gaza. Earlier this month, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said the organisation was at “breaking point”.

Israel has accused at least 12 UNRWA workers of being involved in the October 7 attacks. An Israeli government spokesperson alleged that one worker had held hostages at their house.

Investigation

Lazzarini responded to the claims against UNRWA by terminating the contracts of those allegedly involved in the October 7 attacks.

In a statement to the UN General Assembly earlier this month, Lazzarini also noted the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services – an independent watchdog – was investigating the allegations.

That investigation remains ongoing.

Several countries, including Australia, withdrew their funding to UNRWA as investigations into the workers were launched.

Since then, UNRWA has repeatedly issued pleas for donor countries to restore funding to the agency.

Last week, Lazzarini told the UN General Assembly that 16 countries in total had withdrawn funding, amounting to $US450 million lost since the allegations surfaced. He said: “The fate of the Agency, and the millions of people who depend on it, hang in the balance.”

Australia

Today, the Federal Government confirmed Australia will resume funding “following steps to strengthen the integrity of UNRWA operations “.

A statement said while “the nature of the allegations warranted an immediate and appropriate response,“ the Australian Government had received assurances the $6 million would reach “Gazans in desperate need“.

“Only UNRWA has the infrastructure to receive and distribute aid on the scale needed right now in Gaza,“ it continued.

It comes after Canada and Sweden resumed funding earlier this week.

Opposition

Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham today said: “The Coalition does not support the decision of the Albanese Government to reinstate funding at this time”.

Birmingham said UNRWA is still facing the “most grievous of allegations”.

He suggested Australian funding could flow to other organisations delivering aid to Gaza.

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