update deskIsrael at War

UNRWA says it has enough funding to operate through spring

The agency can pay March and April salaries after some countries resume support.

UNWRA's office in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
UNWRA's office in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency has enough money to continue its operations in the Levant until the end of May after several donor countries resumed financial support, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini announced in remarks to the Swiss press on Tuesday.

While UNRWA’s financial situation “is less dramatic” than a month ago and it will be able to pay salaries in March and April, Lazzarini told reporters the agency still operates “from one month to the next.”

He claimed that the freeze in U.S. funding, which will continue until at least March 2025, poses an “existential” threat to UNRWA, adding that the organization is trying to “mobilize even more countries” to compensate for the $300 million-$400 million annual loss.

The U.S. aid suspension came after Israel said that at least a dozen UNRWA staffers participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and amid the revelation of the agency’s ties to terrorist groups, including its employment of 450 terrorists belonging to Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

Seventeen other countries also paused funding to the agency after Oct. 7, pending the results of investigations. The United Nations launched an internal probe into the matter and former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna is leading an independent review.

However, several countries, voicing concern over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip amid the Israel Defense Forces offensive against Hamas, have since resumed their donations.

On Tuesday, exactly two months after Germany pulled its funding, Lazzarini announced that Berlin pledged €45 million ($49 million) to support UNRWA’s work in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Judea and Samaria.

“Additional support by Germany to UNRWA, namely for its operations in the Gaza Strip, will depend on the progress of an ongoing investigation by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services,” the U.N. agency said.

“With these new contributions, Germany is now our top donor [replacing the U.S.], something I am deeply grateful for,” said Lazzarini.

It was not clear what safeguards would be put in place to prevent German funds from being misappropriated for use in the Hamas-controlled Strip.

Ronen Bar, head of the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet), has said that Hamas diverts at least 60% of the aid to Gaza for its own purposes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a visiting delegation of United Nations ambassadors early last month that “UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas.” The premier has ordered the IDF to come up with alternatives for the distribution of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Asked for comment by JNS, the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry did not comment on UNRWA’s announcement that it would continue to provide services to Palestinians until the end of the spring.

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