Aiding and Abetting

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Several donor countries suspended funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees over the weekend after allegations rose that some of the agency’s staff were involved in Hamas’ deadly attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, CBS News reported.

Last week, Israel said 12 staff members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East were involved in the attack by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups that killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 240 others.

Following the allegations, UNWRA head Philippe Lazzarini announced the agency would conduct a thorough investigation into the accusations. He added that the agency had fired nine staff members, NPR noted.

While the agency did not provide additional details about the allegations, an Israeli dossier – presented to US officials Friday – gave details about the role each of the accused individuals played in the massacre, including kidnapping and supplying ammunition, according to the New York Times.

Even so, the donor nations, including the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, said that they would temporarily suspend payments to the UNRWA amid the ongoing probe.

On Sunday, Estonia, France and Japan became the latest countries to halt funding, Reuters added.

While UN Secretary-General António Guterres and others acknowledged that the allegations were “abhorrent,” they urged countries to continue funding the UNRWA, citing the agency’s importance in providing aid to thousands of women and children.

Lazzarini decried the suspensions, saying it was “immensely irresponsible to sanction an agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region. ”

The UNRWA provides crucial aid to Palestinians fleeing Gaza’s conflict, hosting up to 1.9 million people in its facilities. About 93 percent of people in Gaza face “crisis levels” of hunger, a report said in December, the Washington Post reported. An Israeli defense official denied starvation in the enclave, the newspaper added.

Amid repeated attacks on its centers, a recent incident on Jan. 24 saw a UNRWA building in Khan Younis hit, causing 13 deaths and 56 injuries among 800 displaced individuals.

Israel’s military denies involvement, saying no aerial or artillery strike occurred, with ongoing investigations into the incident.

The allegations follow on the heels of a decision last week by the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, which could become more complicated with the charges leveled against the UNRWA, which administers aid.

“The ruling issued by the ICJ ordered six provisional measures including for Israel to refrain from acts under the Genocide convention, prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to genocide, and take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” wrote Amnesty International of the case brought by South Africa against Israel charging genocide.

“Crucially, the Court also ordered Israel to preserve evidence of genocide and to submit a report to the Court, within one month, of all measures taken in line with its order.”

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