Skip to main content

War on Gaza: Rights group calls on UK to take clear stance on Israel's Unrwa claims

The International Centre for Justice for Palestinians says any state that defunds aid following evidence of Israeli genocide could breach the Genocide Convention
Palestinians stand at the entrance of the Unwra-run University College for Educational Science, Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on 29 January (AFP)

A UK-based rights group said on Thursday that it is instructing solicitors to write to the British government to establish its position on defunding Unrwa. 

The International Centre for Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), which is made up of lawyers, politicians and academics, made the statement following the release of Israel’s six-page dossier against the UN agency, which they said “lacked any evidence but still managed to trigger a massive defunding of Unrwa”.

“The ICJP considers any state that defunds humanitarian aid agencies following the ICJ’s findings of plausible genocide by Israel in Gaza as an act that could breach its obligations to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention,” it said in a statement. 

“Coupled with the supply of financial and military support to Israel, this could amount to complicity in genocide under Article 3,” the ICJP added.

Unrwa, founded 75 years ago following the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948, is the main provider of aid in Gaza, and supports almost six million Palestinian refugees across the region. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Last month, Israel alleged that 12 of the agency’s approximately 13,000 staff in Gaza were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel. In response to the claims, the US and more than a dozen of its allies around the world, including the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Finland, withdrew their funding of the organisation. 

The ICJP urged lawyers in each of the countries who have chosen to defund Unrwa to review the decisions of their government through domestic courts and a judicial review process.

'No evidence'

UK broadcaster Channel 4 News reported that the dossier contained "no evidence to support its explosive (claim) that Unwra staff were involved in the terror attacks on Israel”.

Juliette Touma, Unrwa's director of communications, who was interviewed by Channel 4, said employees and contractors are placed on a list that is given to Israel every year for approval.

As recently as last May, according to Channel 4, all Unwra workers had been vetted and approved by Israel.

According to Touma, the sum total of funds currently being suspended makes up about half of Unwra’s entire operational budget, which could result in needing to end operations in Gaza by the end of this month.

On Thursday, the organisation published a statement saying that until now, “Israel has not provided evidence in writing to the UN to substantiate its allegations.”

The suspension of funding from the EU, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Sweden, among others, will have a devastating impact on Unwra’s operations across the region, including in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.