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War on Gaza: Germany to resume funding Unrwa in Gaza

Decision comes after investigation found Israel had provided no evidence to support claims that UN agency staff were involved in Hamas attack on 7 October
People walk past the damaged Gaza City headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa) on 15 February 2024 (AFP)
People walk past the damaged Gaza City headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa) on 15 February 2024 (AFP)

Germany will resume funding the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) in Gaza, the government announced on Wednesday. 

The decision comes after an investigation by former French minister Catherine Colonna into Israeli allegations that 12 Unrwa employees were involved in the 7 October surprise attack launched by Hamas on southern Israel

A string of western countries, including the USUK, Canada and Germany, suspended funding to Unrwa after Israel made the accusations in January. 

As a result of the allegations, Unrwa terminated the contracts of 10 employees (two were confirmed dead). Sixteen countries paused or froze financial contributions to the agency, amounting to around half of the agency's annual budget.

The Colonna report, which was commissioned by the UN, found that Israeli authorities had not provided "any supporting evidence" to back up allegations of Unrwa staff links to Hamas. 

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The report said Israeli authorities had not responded to letters from Unrwa in March and April requesting names and evidence in order to open an investigation.

It also made recommendations for Unrwa, including to strengthen its internal audit function and improve external oversight of project management. 

"In support of these reforms, the German government will soon continue its cooperation with Unwra in Gaza, as Australia, Canada, Sweden and Japan, among others, have already done," the German foreign and development ministries said in a joint statement on Wednesday. 

'Lack of evidence'

Several countries that froze their contributions, including Australia, Canada and Finland, have since lifted those suspensions, with some citing a lack of evidence.

The White House said on Tuesday that it would have to "have to see real progress" before considering reinstating its funding. 

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"In terms of our funding of Unrwa, that is still suspended. We're gonna have to see real progress here before that gets changed," said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Israel has been pressing for Unrwa to be disbanded in recent months.

The state's foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Oren Marmorstein said the Colonna report "ignores the severity of the problem, and offers cosmetic solutions that do not deal with the enormous scope of Hamas' infiltration of Unrwa". 

On Monday, Colonna responded to Israeli criticism of her report by saying: "We know the Israeli government has publicly strong views on Unrwa. The vast majority of the international community doesn’t share these views."

Unrwa Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said he welcomed the findings saying the report "confirms that the agency has systems in place and that it acts to address allegations of neutrality breaches".

Lazarini said Unrwa would implement the recommendations of the report "without any delay".

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