France to resume UNRWA funding while ‘ensuring right conditions are met’

FM says nation will provide money to Palestinian refugee body as long as its actions are ‘devoid of hatred and violence;’ agency chief says it has enough funds to last until May

People walk past the damaged Gaza City headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on February 15, 2024. (AFP)
People walk past the damaged Gaza City headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on February 15, 2024. (AFP)

France will provide over 30 million euros ($32.4 million) to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) this year to support its operations amid the devastating war in Gaza, the foreign ministry in Paris said.

“We will make our contributions while ensuring that the conditions are met for UNRWA to fulfill its missions in a spirit devoid of incitement to hatred and violence,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Christophe Lemoine told journalists.

He did not say when the next payment to the agency would be made. According to the usual quarterly schedule, the next payment is due in April.

UNRWA’s chief told Swiss media on Tuesday that the agency has enough funds to continue operating until at least the end of May.

The agency has faced severe funding cuts since Israel accused at least a dozen of its 13,000 employees in the Strip of taking part in Hamas’s murderous onslaught against Israel on October 7, when terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253. Israel has also asserted that some 1,500 employees have ties to terror groups.

This led many donor nations, including the United States, to abruptly suspend funding to the agency. But this has threatened its efforts to deliver desperately needed aid in Gaza, where the UN has warned of an impending famine.

Israeli graphic on 12 UNRWA staffers it alleges participated in the October 7 onslaught.

Israel also uncovered a Hamas control center directly below UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters, though the agency claimed it had no idea it was there. The IDF said electrical cables leading from the UN building to the tunnel provided power to the Hamas infrastructure.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini warned last month that the funding crunch was so great the organization might not be able to operate beyond March.

But after a number of countries recently resumed or increased their funding, including Spain, Canada and Australia, Lazzarini told Switzerland’s Keystone-ATS news agency Tuesday that “the situation today is less dramatic.”

However, UNRWA’s largest donor, the US, is unlikely to resume money transfers anytime soon, after Congress passed a bill Saturday that includes a one-year ban on US funding to UNRWA.

An interim report from a UN independent review into allegations against UNRWA, submitted to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday, found that the agency has mechanisms to ensure its neutrality and has deficiencies that must be addressed.

The report was submitted to Guterres and the panel is set to develop its final report with recommendations for how UNRWA should address neutrality concerns going forward and present it to the public on April 20.

Most Popular
read more: