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Norway says UNRWA donor countries will soon restore funding

"A large number of those countries who suspended are [having] second thoughts," Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said.

A Palestinian receives food at an UNRWA school in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 28, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
A Palestinian receives food at an UNRWA school in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 28, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

Oslo suggested on Wednesday that many of the 16 donor countries that temporarily cut off funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will soon restore their financial contributions to the embattled agency.

“I think that a large number of those countries who suspended are [having] second thoughts,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters.

The United States, Germany and Britain were among the countries that suspended $450 million in funding for the U.N. agency tasked with supporting Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the wake of revelations about the agency’s terror ties.

Jerusalem in January revealed that 12 UNRWA employees directly participated in the Hamas-led mass murder and kidnapping rampage in the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7, leading to governments announcing the suspension of funding. The U.N. initiated an internal probe into the matter and former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna is leading an independent review.

The Israeli government has continued to reveal intelligence information about UNRWA’s terror ties, including in February with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announcing that at least 12% of the 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza were affiliated with the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups.

Most recently, this past Monday IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a press briefing that UNRWA in Gaza employed 450 terrorists from Hamas and other armed groups.

Hamas
Hamas terrorists celebrate the eighth anniversary of stealing the corpse of Israeli soldier Shaul Aron, July 20, 2022. Photo by Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.

“Over 450 UNRWA employees are military operatives in terror groups in Gaza. Over 450. This is no mere coincidence. This is systematic. There is no claiming ‘We did not know,'” Hagari said.

“We sent the information that I am sharing now, as well as further intelligence, to our international partners, including the U.N.,” he continued.

Israel on Tuesday slammed the European Union’s decision last week to partially restore funding to UNRWA before an investigation concludes into the U.N. agency’s links to Hamas and the Oct. 7 terrorist invasion.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat wrote on X that the European Commission’s move on Friday to pay €50 million ($54.3 million) to UNRWA before the probe’s completion “legitimizes the involvement of UNRWA employees in terrorist activities and cooperation with Hamas.”

Barth Eide indicated that many countries will likely restore funding to UNRWA after the investigations are completed.

A Norwegian flag. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“But then, of course, they need an honorable way out, which means they are hoping, I think—without speaking for individual countries—that they will get something from these investigations that suggest that they can say: “Well, we needed to suspend, but now we’re back.'”

Norway is a top donor to UNRWA and has maintained its funding, transferring 275 million crowns ($26 million) in February, while also lobbying other countries to resume donations.

The agency’s chief, Philippe Lazzarini, warned on Monday that “without additional funding, we will be in uncharted territory with serious implications for global peace and security.”

Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Lazzarini said the agency was “functioning hand-to-mouth” after funding was suspended.

He also accused Israel of leading “a deliberate and concerted campaign” aimed at closing the agency.

Philippe Lazzarini
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), briefs reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York, March 4, 2024. Photo by Mark Garten/U.N. Photo.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, told the General Assembly on Monday, “After all that has been exposed about UNRWA, it’s very clear. UNRWA will never again operate in Gaza as it has prior to Oct. 7. Its role in Gaza is finished and it must be replaced immediately. UNRWA must be defunded and dismantled.”

Norway has played a leading role in financially propping up the Palestinians, announcing last week that the Palestinian Authority received 407 million shekels ($114 million) from Israel as part of a deal earlier in February between Oslo and Jerusalem to unfreeze tax funds for Ramallah.

The Scandinavian country has been accused of anti-Israel bias, a recent example being four academic institutions suspending their collaborations with universities in Israel over IDF actions during the Gaza war, a development that has direct support from the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

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