ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Emirates announces $5 million to beleaguered UNRWA for Gaza reconstruction

UAE’s pledge shows support for organization amid donor backlash following allegations aid agency’s employees took part in October 7 atrocities

Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag speaks during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters on January 30, 2024 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)
Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag speaks during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters on January 30, 2024 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)

The United Arab Emirates has pledged $5 million to the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) for the Gaza Strip’s reconstruction efforts, led by the organization’s chief coordinator Sigrid Kaag, Reuters reported Saturday, citing Emirati state news agency WAM.

The move barely puts a dent in the $440 million that the agency says is currently being withheld from it, after numerous donor countries suspended funding following revelations, purportedly by Israeli intelligence, that about a dozen UNRWA employees participated in Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught, and many more have ties to terror groups.

On October 7, some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists invaded Israel to murder nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and take over 250 hostages of all ages. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to a group of UN envoys in Jerusalem Wednesday that UNRWA is “in the service of Hamas,” urging further suspension of donations to the agency.

Among other allegations detailed in a dossier said to have been disseminated by Israeli officials, a UNRWA school counselor is accused of working with his son to abduct an Israeli woman, and a social worker for UNRWA is said to have kidnapped the body of a slain soldier. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the information “highly, highly credible.”

Following the revelations, UNRWA announced it had sacked “several” employees and would undertake an internal investigation. The United States and Canada immediately announced they would suspend upcoming donations to the agency, and were soon followed by numerous countries, including the UK, Japan, Germany, and Sweden. Taken together, these six countries represent over 60 percent of UNRWA’s funding.

According to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday, Israeli intelligence indicates that some 10% of the agency’s 12,000 employees in Gaza are themselves connected to either Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and about half have a close relative who is associated with one of the terror organizations.

The 12 staffers at UNRWA alleged to have been involved in the October 7 onslaught. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel’s purported allegations against UNRWA are the latest in a decades-long feud between the Jewish state and the aid agency.

Founded in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees from Israel’s War of Independence, it is the only UN agency devoted to a specific group of refugees, with other refugees catered to by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Israeli officials have claimed that UNRWA perpetuates Palestinian grievances, and accuse it of fostering hatred for the Jewish state in its schools’ textbooks. In his Wednesday comments, Netanyahu called for the organization’s dismantlement.

However, some Israeli officials have voiced concern over the potential economic fallout of axing the agency mid-war.

Illustrative: A Palestinian refugee camp on a hill overlooking Amman, Jordan, in 1953. (AP Photo)

UNRWA is one of the largest employers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, running schools, medical centers and other facilities. The organization says its workers “are the backbone of the humanitarian aid operations” in the Gaza Strip, and Kaag has said that no organization can replace its “ability and knowledge.”

Kaag, a Dutch politician who has served as the Netherlands’ foreign minister, has worked for UNRWA and is married to a former top Palestinian official. She was appointed to her post early last month.

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