Gaza: UNRWA has 'neutrality issues' but is 'indispensable' to Palestinians, independent report says

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip has political “neutrality issues” but Israel has yet to provide “proof” that some of its members are allegedly linked to “terrorist organizations

Gaza: UNRWA has 'neutrality issues' but is 'indispensable' to Palestinians, independent report says

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip has political “neutrality issues” but Israel has yet to provide “proof” that some of its members are allegedly linked to “terrorist organizations.” , concludes, Monday April 22, a report submitted to the head of the United Nations.

The fact remains that UNRWA is “irreplaceable and indispensable” to the Palestinians, underlines this independent group chaired by the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna and charged by the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, with an evaluation mission on the “ neutrality” of this UN agency.

“UNRWA remains crucial in providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance and essential social services, including health and education, to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank,” the group emphasizes. in a highly anticipated report of around fifty pages. “Many consider that UNRWA is a humanitarian lifeline,” writes the mission led by the former head of French diplomacy. But despite this solid framework, problems related to neutrality persist,” she notes.

Twelve employees accused by Israel

These include “cases of staff employees publicly expressing their political opinions, school books with problematic content coming from the host country and used in certain UNRWA schools, politicized trade unionists making threats against the management of the “UNRWA and disrupting humanitarian operations,” according to the independent group.

The agency, which has more than 30,000 employees in the region, is accused by Israel of employing “more than 400 terrorists” in Gaza. And twelve of its employees are accused, by the Israelis, of having been directly involved in the October 7 attack carried out by Hamas on Israeli soil. Accusations which led to the suspension of funding by certain donor countries, some of which have since resumed.

“Based on a March 2024 list containing Palestinian identity numbers, Israel has publicly claimed that a significant number of UNRWA employees are members of terrorist organizations. However, Israel has yet to provide proof,” the group warns in its report.

UNRWA, created by the UN General Assembly in 1949, “is the backbone of humanitarian operations” in Gaza, its boss, Philippe Lazzarini, repeated last week to the Security Council, denouncing an “insidious” campaign. » to end its operations. “Dismantling UNRWA will have lasting repercussions,” he warned, with the consequence in particular of “aggravating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and accelerating the onset of famine.”