The Netherlands has frozen future contributions to the UN aid agency in Gaza UNRWA, but will continue to provide help to the civilian population there using other channels, aid minister Geoffrey van Leeuwen said on Saturday evening.
The Netherlands is suspending aid following claims by Israel that a handful of UNRWA workers helped Hamas during the October 7 attacks. The US, Britain, Italy and Finland are among the other countries to have temporarily stopped providing aid to UNRWA pending an investigation into the claims.
“The allegations are too serious,” Van Leeuwen said in a statement. “We first need to know exactly what the investigation turns up and what steps the UN is taking.”
UNRWA is budgeted to receive €19 million from the Dutch foreign ministry budget this year and this regular payment has already been made, the minister said.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on Saturday he is shocked countries have decided to suspend the aid group’s funding based on the “alleged behavior of a few individuals” and that needs in Gaza are “deepening” as the war continues.
“Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment. This stains all of us,” Lazzarini said in a statement circulated on social media. The agency, he said, shares the list of all its staff with host countries every year, including Israel and has never received any concerns about specific staff members.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, provides health care, education and other humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the Middle East. It employs around 13,000 people inside Gaza and is the main relief organisation there, the BBC said.
An adviser to the Israeli prime minister told the BBC on Friday that the October 7 attacks involved “people who are on their [UNRWA] salaries”. He also said there was information showing that teachers working in UNRWA schools had “openly celebrated” the killings.
The Israeli claims came as judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the UN’s highest judicial body, ordered Israel to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza and let humanitarian aid into the besieged enclave. However, the court stopped short of ordering a ceasefire, as South Africa had asked them to do.
In a statement issued Sunday, UN secretary general António Guterres said nine of the 12 UNRWA staff members at the centre of the allegations had been fired. One other was dead and the identities of two others were still “being clarified.”
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