Palestinians slam suspension of UNRWA funding by some Western nations

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Top Palestinian officials and Hamas have criticised the decision by some Western countries to suspend funding to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians and called for an immediate reversal of the move that entails “great” risk.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) earlier said it had opened an investigation into some employees that Israel alleges were involved in the October 7 attacks that triggered the current conflict.

On Saturday, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh said the countries’ decision “entails great political and humanitarian relief risks”.

“At this particular time and in light of the continuing aggression against the Palestinian people, we need the maximum support for this international organization and not stopping support and assistance to it,” he wrote on X, urging the countries to “immediately reverse their decision”.

Italy, Australia, Canada and the United States said they would halt funding to the agency, while European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the 27-member bloc would “assess further steps and draw lessons based on the result of the full and comprehensive investigation”.

The United Kingdom and Finland also joined the growing list of countries to pause financial aid to the UN agency, whose facilities where displaced Palestinians sought shelter have been repeatedly attacked in Israeli air raids.

Hamas on Saturday slammed Israeli “threats” against the agency, after Israel accused several UNRWA staff of involvement in Hamas’s October 7 attacks in southern Israel that the authorities there have said killed about 1,140 people.

“We ask the UN and the international organisations to not cave in to the threats and blackmail” from Israel, Hamas’s press office said in a post on Telegram.

On Friday, UNRWA said it had fired several employees and that it had opened an investigation into the allegations.

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