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Canada resumes UNRWA funding paused after alleged staff role in Israel attacks

Click to play video: 'Canada resumes UNRWA funding paused after alleged staff role in Israel attacks'
Canada resumes UNRWA funding paused after alleged staff role in Israel attacks
WATCH: Canada has resumed funding of the United Nations agency charged with delivering aid to Palestinians after issuing a temporary pause in January following allegations that staff members may have been involved in the Oct. 7 attacks against Israel. David Akin reports. – Mar 8, 2024

Canada has resumed funding of the United Nations agency charged with delivering aid to Palestinians after issuing a temporary pause in January following allegations that staff members may have been involved in the Oct. 7 attacks against Israel.

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said in a press release Friday that the UN has implemented several “significant processes to address the allegations.”

“Following allegations that some UNRWA staff were involved in Hamas’s heinous terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7, 2023, the UN has put in place several significant processes to address the allegations and reinforce its zero tolerance for terror within the UN, including UNRWA,” the statement said.

Click to play video: 'Canada resumes UNRWA funding paused due to allegations agency staff played a role in Oct. 7 attack'
Canada resumes UNRWA funding paused due to allegations agency staff played a role in Oct. 7 attack

“Canada has reviewed the interim report of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on this matter and looks forward to the final report. Canada commends the independent review of UNRWA currently underway, led by Catherine Colonna, and anticipates reviewing the report assessing UNRWA’s neutrality mechanisms.”

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“While these investigative processes continue, UNRWA has taken immediate measures to strengthen oversight, accountability and transparency,” the statement continued.

Hussen says Canada is working to overcome challenges in delivering humanitarian aid and life-saving relief to civilians in Gaza, who need help “as quickly as possible.”

Canada is also helping deliver critical supplies into Gaza by providing support to Jordan and the World Food Programme (WFP) with airdrops, Hussen said. The support includes $100,000 in funding Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation and “substantial” funding to the WFP. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will also provide approximately 300 cargo parachutes to the Royal Jordanian Air Force.

Click to play video: 'Gaza crisis: Canada reportedly reconsidering UNRWA funding'
Gaza crisis: Canada reportedly reconsidering UNRWA funding

UNRWA has been providing food, water and shelter to over two million people in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Canada temporarily paused funding for UNRWA in January after allegations that staff members were involved in the attacks against Israel last October.

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A statement posted to UNRWA’s website that month says Israeli authorities provided information to the agency about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the attacks.

“To protect the Agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay,” the statement quotes UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini as saying.

“Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.”

Hussen said in a statement at the time that Canada will conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations.

“Should the allegations prove to be accurate, Canada expects UNRWA to immediately act against those determined to have been involved in Hamas’ terrorist acts,” he said.

More than the 60 per cent of UNRWA’s budget in 2022 was filled by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Japan, Italy, Switzerland and other countries that have suspended their aid to the agency.

The agency was established to provide aid to the estimated 700,000 Palestinians “who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 War” about Israel’s creation.

UNRWA operates schools, health clinics, infrastructure projects and aid programs in refugee camps that now resemble dense urban neighborhoods in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. It has 13,000 employees in Gaza alone, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

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In Gaza, where some 85 per cent of the territory’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, over one million are sheltering in UNRWA schools and other facilities.

The federal government said last June that between 2019 through 2023, Canada has committed a total of $90 million in support for UNRWA, provided as humanitarian aid.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, Canada has sent an additional $20 million to the UNRWA, part of a total of $60 million committed to aid groups to address “urgent needs stemming from the crisis in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Israel and neighbouring areas.”

Hussen said in his statement Friday that “Canada continues to call on all parties to respect their international humanitarian law obligations.”

“Canada is committed to a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security, with dignity and without fear.”

— With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton and Nathaniel Dove

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