update deskIsrael at War

Norway advances donation to UNRWA amid funding crunch

The United Nations has sent a “reconnaissance mission” to northern Gaza as a first step toward the return of displaced residents.

Palestinians receive food supplies at an UNRWA school, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Jan. 28, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinians receive food supplies at an UNRWA school, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Jan. 28, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

After a series of donors halted funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East over the group’s alleged terror ties, Norway has pledged to advance its annual donation to help fill the void.

Sixteen major donors have announced a suspension of funding pending an internal U.N. investigation into Israel’s allegations that a dozen UNRWA staffers took part in Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre. A Wall Street Journal report also referenced an Israeli intelligence dossier indicating some 10% of UNRWA workers in Gaza have substantial ties to Palestinian terror organizations.

Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s foreign minister, told The National on Friday that his country is set to transfer about $26 million to UNRWA.

While some donor countries, including Sweden, announced they would send pledged UNRWA donations to other humanitarian organizations, Eide said there was a “risk that the security situation in the Middle East will be destabilized” should UNRWA collapse.

Norway’s own contributions fell from $34 million last year to $26 million this year.

U.N. officials have said that should the suspension of funding from major donors remain in place, UNRWA would run out of money by the end of February. A U.N. spokesman told JNS there are “very few options” to move money from other accounts and agencies to UNRWA.

According to Eide, “There is no plan B after UNRWA,” though critics of the scandal-plagued organization insist the World Food Program, World Health Organization and other U.N. and independent humanitarian organizations could deliver on UNRWA’s mandate.  

The United Nations is also getting closer to sending an assessment mission to northern Gaza in an effort to determine what is needed to allow residents of the region to return home following Israel’s military operations there.

The mission was proposed by the United States, with the aim of investigating the security, infrastructure and humanitarian challenges involved in returning displaced residents.

A U.N. spokesman told reporters on Friday that the body sent a reconnaissance mission on Wednesday and Thursday. 

“It’s not the full assessment mission that we’ve been talking about,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, indicated the reconnaissance was a first step in the process.

“For us to get into northern Gaza is challenging. There are a lot of moving parts that have to be aligned,” Dujarric added, declining to give a timeline for an assessment mission to begin. 

The U.S. State Department said earlier this week the process had been delayed by the renewed launching of rockets from Gaza by Hamas.

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