Restoring U.S. funding for UNRWA depends on investigation: spokesperson

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Guterres: UN to punish staffers involved in ‘terror,’ urges end to pause in Palestinian funding
WATCH: As the conflict in Gaza wears on, divisions between Israel and the United Nations are growing by the day. UN Secretary General António Guterres is pleading with nine countries to restore funding for the UN's relief agency. Canada the U.S. and others suspended funding after Israel alleged 12 staff members at UNRWA were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Redmond Shannon reports – Jan 28, 2024

The United States will wait for the results of the United Nations’ investigation into the allegations staff were involved in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel before it resumes delivering aid, a spokesperson said.

“We have suspended our contributions to UNRWA pending the results of this investigation,” U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday, referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East.

The U.S., along with allies Canada, Germany, Britain and others suspended aid to UNRWA after the agency said on Friday it is investigating allegations shared by Israel that some of its employees were involvement with the attack on Israel.

On Monday, UNRWA said it will not be able to continue its operations across the region beyond the end of February unless donors resume their funding.

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UNRWA delivers food and water to more than two million people in besieged Gaza, with the agency’s head saying the population depends on it for “sheer survival.”

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“All the more reason that… this investigation be credible, transparent and thorough, and frankly, timely,” Kirby said.

Israel controls the borders, restricts supplies and has clamped down after Hamas’ attacks, which killed roughly 1,200 people. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israel’s retaliation killed more than 26,000 people.

In December the World Food Programme warned the region is facing a famine.

The donors’ withheld funds amount to 60 per of UNRWA’s budget.

“(People in Gaza’s) needs have never been higher – and our humanitarian capacity to assist them has never been under such threat,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Kirby told reporters whether the U.S., which is the largest donor, resumes giving aid depends on “what accountability and corrective measures UNRWA is willing to make.”

“Let’s not impugn the good work of a whole agency because of the potential bad actions here by a small number,” he said, referring to the 13,000 total UNRWA employees and those the Israeli authorities accused of being involved in Hamas’ attacks.

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The UN said it immediately fired the employees, later clarifying it terminated nine while still identifying two others and that one was dead.

The Associated Press obtained the Israeli authorities’ document that oulines the allegations, though couldn’t verify its contents.

Seven allegedly crossed into Israel as part of the Oct. 7 attacks, three of whom took part in the attacks while one is accused of helping take a dead soldier’s body while another is accused of helping kidnap a hostage, the Associated Press reported.

Ten of the 12 people allegedly have ties to Hamas while another is allegedly connected to Islamic Jihad, another militant group.

Nine of the accused are teachers and one is a social worker.

The UN condemned the “abhorrent alleged acts.”

— with files from the Associated Press’ Tia Goldenberg, Najib Jobain and Jack Jeffery and Reuters

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