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There is still no evidence from Israel that terrorist charges have been brought against UNRWA employees – NRK Urix – Foreign news and documentaries

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People killed since October 7, 2023

sources: Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza/UNOCHA/Israeli authorities

Figures issued by Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza do not distinguish between civilians and combatants, and may be delayed from time to time. The death toll in Palestine is the same as in Gaza. Figures from the Israeli authorities show that about 1,200 civilians and soldiers were killed as a result of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023. According to the numbers published by the Israeli authorities on April 3, 260 Israeli soldiers have been killed since October 27, 2023. None of these numbers have been confirmed by independent sources. Palestinian numbers are updated daily. Figures from Israel are updated at least twice a week.

– Israel publicly announced that a large number of UNRWA employees are members of terrorist organizations.

– Israel has not yet provided evidence to support this.

Thus begins the long-awaited Colonna report, in which specialists assessed the impartiality of the UN organisation.

Among them are Norwegian experts at the Michaelsen Institute in Bergen.

Reuters captured this flow of people from south to north in the Gaza Strip on April 14. Save the Children says the numbers in northern Gaza are the largest.

Photography: Ramadan Abed/Reuters

In January, 12 UNRWA employees were accused of being members of terrorist organizations, and of participating in the Hamas attack on October 7 last year.

Ten of these were released shortly after, and two died, according to UNRWA itself.

Last month, Israel increased its debt and claimed that more than 450 of its employees were working for armed groups in Gaza, Reuters reported.

Sends employee lists to Israel

30,000 people work together in the organization, which helps 5.9 million Palestinian refugees in the region, also outside Gaza.

The Commission of Inquiry wrote that since 2011, UNRWA had provided overviews to the governing authorities in Israel, so that they could check the background of those working there.

The Israeli authorities did not inform UNRWA of any concerns regarding UNRWA employees based on these lists.

Archive photo: Displaced Palestinians waiting to receive aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Rafah

In Gaza, there is a great need for food deliveries from the outside world. The UN Secretary-General says UNRWA is too important for them to progress.

Photography: Muhammad Salem/Reuters

Israel still refuses to allow any emergency aid to enter through the organization, despite the large and increasing needs.

The Israeli representative to the United Nations has not yet responded to Reuters' request for comment after the report was published.

“The problem of neutrality”

At the press conference, committee chair Catherine Colonna referred to what she calls the committee “Challenges to neutrality.”

– It is not new that UNRWA faces challenges with the politicization of staff on the ground, says Colonna.

– Not all, but some of them, usually the positions with the greatest influence.

Catherine Colonna

The investigation team was headed by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, whose namesake she bears.

Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP

However, the Commission believes that UNRWA has a particularly comprehensive system in place to ensure impartiality, including conducting comprehensive background checks.

They put forward up to 50 proposals for changes in how the organization operates, such as:

  • Establishing an investigation unit to ensure impartiality,
  • To change the ways in which UNRWA checks the background of its staff, and
  • To introduce third party controls on sensitive projects.

It was approved by the Secretary-General

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, approved the recommendations.

UNRWA, with the support of the Secretary-General, will develop an action plan to introduce the recommended changes, its spokesman said in a statement.

On the way forward, all actors are requested to support UNRWA effectively, as it is the lifeline for Palestine refugees in the region.

Israel Palestine United Nations agency

The Commission believes that many UNRWA staff members in “influential” positions are very clear about their political views.

Photography: Muhammad Zaatari/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called for the end of UNRWA.

– We must replace UNRWA with other United Nations and relief organizations if we want to solve the Gaza problem as we plan to do, he said, according to Reuters on January 31.

When Colonna was asked about Israel’s position on the organization, she responded with the following:

We all know that the Israeli government has publicly expressed strong views on UNRWA, but the vast majority of the international community does not share Israel's view.

Save the Children: – We need UNRWA

The United Nations commissioned an external investigation. They are also investigating the incidents internally.

But time passes. 80% of all emergency aid to Gaza comes through UNRWA, and needs on the ground have increased dramatically during the six months of the war.

Nora Engdahl, Save the Children's international director, says staff were “glued to the news” as they waited for the full report.

Nora Engdahl is International Director at Red Barna,

Engdahl says that humanitarian organizations depend entirely on UNRWA.

Photo: Nora Lee/Save the Children

– Children are dying as we speak now. They starved to death, and we won't get there. We need UNRWA, she tells NRK.

In this case, we need donors to bear the funding and support of UNRWA financially and morally.

She says the debt has had dire consequences for the organization. The fact that support for UNRWA remains weak also affects Save the Children's outreach goal, Engdahl says.

UNRWA had to coordinate access to northern Gaza, where the need is urgent.

It is now asking countries to support UNRWA.

I think the results weaken Israel's debt

Jürgen Genshaugen is a senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute (PRIU), and an expert on the long-running conflict between Israel and Palestine.

– Debts owed to UNRWA have led to dire consequences, and have the potential to cause the collapse of the organization, he tells NRK.

Jürgen Genshaugen

Jürgen Genshaugen, Senior Researcher at BREO.

Photography: Ismail Barak Akan/NRK

So, when Israel doesn't provide this kind of evidence, so be it Excavator.

These debts mean that UNRWA lost significant amounts of financial support from the international community in January – an estimated 4.6 billion Norwegian kroner.

The consequences become particularly clear when you look at the most vulnerable areas of the Gaza Strip, Genshaugen says.

– The short answer is that northern Gaza cannot deal with the situation without UNRWA, because northern Gaza cannot deal with it now at all.

– The famine disaster is also a reflection of the fact that UNRWA is denied access.

The US has turned off the tap, and the UK is neutral

A number of countries chose to suspend financial support for the UN agency while the debt was investigated.

Today, most countries have their support, but not the United States, and not the United Kingdom.

British authorities said they would wait for Colonna's report before making a decision on the new payments.

Humanitarian aid falls through the sky towards the Gaza Strip after being dropped from a plane, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, as seen from Israel.

Here emergency aid is dropped from a plane over the Gaza Strip. The photo was taken on April 21.

Photography: Amir Cohen – Reuters

Jensehaugen believes the conclusions Can Be positive enough for UNRWA for the UK to support them again.

– But clearly the United States is the really big country, he says.

– As long as they do not return and other major donors do not significantly increase their contributions, there is a risk that UNRWA will go bankrupt or be forced to make radical interventions in its structure.

04/22/2024 at 15.42

04/22/2024 at 21.40

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