Before resuming funding, UK wants ‘absolute guarantee’ UNRWA won’t employ terrorists

British FM Cameron decries alleged Oct. 7 crimes by UN agency’s staff as ‘unacceptable’; calls for probe into allegations to be swift, citing UNRWA’s ‘vital job’ distributing aid

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron speaks during a joint news conference after his meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister in Sofia on February 14, 2024. (Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP)
Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron speaks during a joint news conference after his meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister in Sofia on February 14, 2024. (Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP)

Britain wants an “absolute guarantee” that the UN Palestinian refugee agency will not employ staff who are willing to attack Israel, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Wednesday, after allegations that some were involved in the October 7 massacre.

Britain last month joined the United States in “temporarily pausing” funding for UNRWA following allegations that around 12 of its thousands of Palestinian employees were suspected of involvement in the Hamas onslaught that triggered the Israel-Hamas war.

Donors such as Britain and the United States have indicated they will not resume support until the UN’s internal investigation into the allegations ends. A preliminary report is due to be published in the next several weeks.

The United Nations has announced the creation of an independent panel to assess UNRWA following the claims. Israel, which provided the evidence of UNRWA members participating in the attack, has said the mandate for the probe is too vague and won’t prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the organization in the future.

Israel has said Hamas used UNRWA facilities for its own purposes and built parts of its massive underground network of tunnels and military facilities underneath the UN organization’s sites. It recently took multiple media outlets to tour one such operations center under the organization’s headquarters in Gaza City.

Asked what Britain needed to see in the probe’s report in order to resume funding, Cameron said: “What we’re looking for is an absolute guarantee that this can’t happen again. Let’s be clear here that it looks as if there were people working for UNRWA who took part in the October 7 attacks on Israel. That is unacceptable.”

This picture taken during a media tour organized by the Israeli army on February 8, 2024, shows Israeli soldiers inside an evacuated compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

“That’s why we paused our funding. That’s why these reviews are taking place,” he told reporters during a trip to Bulgaria. “We need them to take place quickly because many UNRWA staff do an absolutely vital job inside Gaza, where they are the only network for distributing aid, to make sure that we get aid to people that need it very, very badly.”

War erupted when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists carried out a devastating October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Terrorists who breached the border rampaged through southern Israel amid acts of rape, mutilation, and torture of victims, while also kidnapping 253 people of all ages.

Israel responded with a military offensive to end Hamas’s rule in Gaza and free the hostages, over half of whom are still being held captive.

UNRWA was established in 1949 following the Israeli War of Independence, when 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes. Nearly the entire Gaza population now relies on UNRWA for basics including food, water, and hygiene supplies.

The head of UNRWA said on Tuesday that calls for it to be dismantled were short-sighted and that terminating the agency’s mandate would deepen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Britain has provided funding for UNRWA until the end of the financial year and it says it is working with other agencies to help get aid into Gaza.

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