About

Australia pauses funding to UN agency in Gaza

Share
Australia has halted funding to a UN agency based in Gaza, over allegations some of its workers were involved in Hamas' 7 October attacks.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced Australia is pausing funding to the UN agency

Australia has joined nine other countries in suspending funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) over accusations some UN workers were involved in Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong welcomed the UN’s independent investigation into the claims. Wong said the allegations are “deeply concerning”, however.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini urged these countries to re-consider their decisions to stop funding the agency.

Background

On 7 October, Hamas launched an attack on Israel. According to data cited by the United Nations (UN), roughly 1,200 people were killed.

About 240 hostages were captured by Hamas, which controls Gaza, and about 132 hostages remain captive. Hamas has continued to fire rockets towards Israel, who responded by declaring war and bombarding Gaza.

According to UN data, more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October. Israel’s war in Gaza has caused a humanitarian crisis.

Additionally, 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.

Authorities in Israel provided UNRWA with information alleging some employees had been involved in the 7 October attacks. The UN identified 10 workers, nine of whom were dismissed and one who is confirmed dead.

Since the allegations were raised, no criminal charges have been laid. The UN also hasn’t specified how the workers were allegedly involved in the attacks. Israel has claimed an UNRWA worker held an Israeli hostage captive in their house.

UN probe

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said an investigation into the UNRWA workers allegedly involved in the 7 October attacks was “immediately activated”.

The UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services – an independent watchdog – is looking into the allegations.

Guterres has also vowed any UN worker found to be involved in acts of terror will be “held accountable… through criminal prosecution”.

Government’s decision

Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced Australia was halting $6 million in recently-announced funding as the UN investigates the claims.

Wong said the agency does “vital, life saving work”, but the allegations were “deeply concerning”.

In addition to Australia, the U.S, UK, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan have all paused funding to the UNRWA.

Response

Shadow Foreign Minister James Paterson welcomed the Government’s decision to suspend funding, saying “we have to be absolutely rigorous in ensuring that Australian taxpayer dollars does not end up funding a terrorist organisation”.

However, Deputy Greens Leader Mehreen Faruqi said the Government needs to “reverse its terrible decision”, describing the funding pause as a “despicable and heartless act”.

UNRWA reaction

UNRWA is urging all countries that have suspended funding to reverse their decision.

Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said: “It is shocking to see a suspension of funds to the Agency in reaction to allegations against a small group of staff, especially given the immediate action that UNRWA took”.

He added thousands of staff in Gaza are continuing to run shelters for more than a million people, and nearly all people in Gaza rely on the UNRWA for survival.

Become smarter in three minutes

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed, for free.

Be the smart friend in your group chat

Join thousands of young Aussies and get our 5 min daily newsletter on what matters in your world.

It’s easy. It’s trustworthy. It’s free.