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Germany to resume funding for UNRWA after independent investigation

Germany said on Wednesday that it plans to resume funding for the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) after an independent review found no credible evidence of Israel's allegations that 12 UNRWA staff participated in the October 7 attack on Israel.

The allegations led 16 donor countries including two of UNRWA's largest donors, the United States and Germany, to halt funding for the agency. 

In response to the investigation's findings, the German foreign and development ministries urged UNRWA in a statement to implement the report's recommendations. 

The statement also said: "In support of these reforms, the German government will soon continue its cooperation with UNRWA in Gaza, as Australia, Canada, Sweden and Japan, among others, have already done."

"Germany will coordinate closely with its closest international partners on the disbursement of further funds. UNRWA's short-term financing needs in Gaza are currently covered by existing funds," it added.

UNRWA provides aid, education, and social services to millions of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. The relief agency employs 32,000 people. It is the largest aid organization in the Gaza Strip, with 13,000 employees providing lifesaving support amidst a humanitarian crisis unleashed by Israel's ongoing attack on Gaza. 

A review of the UNRWA's practices, as well as a separate investigation into the October attack, was commissioned by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services. The review was headed by French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, and three Nordic research institutes. 

The three groups are the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the Norwegian Chr Michelsen Institute, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Colonna's investigation makes clear that Israel failed to support its claims about UNRWA staff belonging to either Hamas’s military wing or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The review also noted that UNRWA shares its staff list annually with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. Israel has not raised any concerns with UNRWA based on those staff lists since 2011. 

A more detailed report provided by the three Nordic research institutes supporting Colonna highlights that "Israeli authorities have to date not provided any supporting evidence nor responded to letters from UNRWA in March, and again in April, requesting the names and supporting evidence that would enable UNRWA to open an investigation."

Israeli bombardment of Gaza has already had a significant impact on the relief agencies' facilities. UNRWA reports that between 7 October 2023 and 15 March 2024, there are 349 documented armed conflict incidents impacting UNRWA and internally displaced persons sheltering around them. 

UNRWA has emphasized that the coordinates of its facilities are shared with parties to the conflict regularly, and are marked as UN premises. 

Read more on Reuters and Al Jazeera






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