UNRWA commissioner ‘cautiously optimistic’ about resumption of donations

(File photo: Jordan News)
NEW YORK — The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, expressed cautious optimism about some donors intending to resume funding the agency within weeks. He pointed out that UNRWA had been "threatened with death" following Israeli allegations that some of its employees participated in the October 7 attack. اضافة اعلان

Lazzarini mentioned that an independent review of UNRWA's activities had been launched under the leadership of former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who began her mission in mid-February. The final report is expected to be published next month, Al-Mamlaka TV reported.

Lazzarini stated, "I am cautiously optimistic that in the coming weeks, and also after the publication of Catherine Colonna's report, several donors will return." He added, "The agency is threatened with death, it is at risk of disintegration." Colonna earlier announced her plans to visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Amman in the coming days.

UNRWA, which provides basic assistance and services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank occupied by Israel, as well as across the region, has been in crisis since Israel accused 12 of its employees out of the 13,000 employees in Gaza of participating in the October 7 attack against Israel, sparking the war. Several countries, including the United States, suspended funding to the agency following the Israeli allegations.

After the Israeli allegations surfaced, UNRWA dismissed some employees, stating that it did so to protect its ability to provide humanitarian assistance. The United Nations opened an independent internal investigation. UNRWA said in a report released in February that some employees who were detained by Israel reported after their release that they had been pressured by Israeli authorities to confess to participating in the attack.

Lazzarini emphasized, "What is at stake is the fate of Palestinians today in Gaza in the short term, who are experiencing a humanitarian crisis unprecedented." UNRWA manages schools, clinics, and other social services in Gaza, as well as distributing humanitarian aid. The United Nations said about 3,000 employees are still working to provide assistance in the sector, where a quarter of its population, about 576,000 people, are just a step away from famine.

Lazzarini concluded, "The agency I currently manage is the only agency that provides public services to Palestinian refugees." He continued, "We are more like a ministry of education and primary health care. If we get rid of such an organization, who will reintegrate a million boys and girls suffering from psychological trauma in Gaza today into the learning environment?"

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