Head of UN Agency For Palestinians Seeks Probe into Staff Killings

Wed Apr 24 2024
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UNITED NATIONS, United States: The head of the United Nations Agency for Palestinians has sought probe into staff killings after some 180 staffers were killed since the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out in Gaza in October.

The director of the UN agency hit back at Israel Tuesday, calling for a Security Council probe into the “blatant disregard” for UN operations in Gaza killing some 180 staffers.

Philippe Lazzarini also revealed that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) had been able to partly offset a funding gap by raising $100 million from online donations.

His comments came a day after an independent review said Israel had not yet provided evidence on its claim that hundreds of UNRWA staff were members of terrorist groups. The review, however, identified “neutrality-related issues” within the UNRWA, for example in employees’ social media posts.

While endorsing the findings of the review, the director of the UN agency told media-men that attacks on the agency’s neutrality “are primarily motivated by the objective to strip the Palestinians from the refugee status — and this is a reason why there are pushes today for UNRWA not to be present” in Gaza, east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

UNRWA was set up in 1949 to serve Palestinians who lost their homes in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, as well as their descendants. There are now over 5.9 million registered Palestinian refugees.

Lazzarini said that he recently called on the Security Council members for an independent probe and accountability for the blatant disregard of UN premises, UN staff, and UN operations in the Gaza Strip.

Lazzarini said as of April 23, 180 UNRWA staff have been killed in the war. He told media that 160 premises have been damaged or destroyed, and at least 400 people have been killed while seeking the protection of the UN flag.

He said Israel military or Hamas and other militant groups used vacated UNRWA premises for military purposes, while UNRWA staffers have been arrested and even tortured.

He said an investigation was necessary “to have accountability, in order not to set a new low standard in future conflict situations.”

Israel had in January alleged that some UNRWA staff participated in the Hamas attacks and subsequently many donors froze some $450 million in funding at a time when Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people are in dire need of water, food, shelter and medicine.

Many countries have since resumed their donations, while others, including the US have not. The USA passed a law blocking funding until at least March 2025.

The director said the agency was operating “hand to mouth for the time being” but added that online fundraising to the agency totaled $100 million since October 7, in “an extraordinary indication of grassroots solidarity.”

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