US Pauses Funding to UN Agency for Palestinians After Claims Staffers Were Involved in Hamas Attack
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The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees fired a number of its staffers in Gaza suspected of taking part in the Oct. 7 terror attack by Hamas on southern Israel, its director said Friday, prompting the United States — the agency's biggest donor — to temporarily halt its funding.
The agency, United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East known by its acronym UNRWA, has been the main agency providing aid for Gaza's population during Israel's offensive against Hamas that was triggered by the Oct. 7 attack.
UNRWA officials did not comment on the impact that the U.S. halt in funding would have on its operations.
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In a statement, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini called the allegations "shocking" and said any employee "involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution."
Lazzarini said the agency terminated contracts with "several" employees and ordered an investigation after Israel provided information alleging they played a role in the attack. The U.S. State Department said there were allegations against 12 employees.
UNRWA has 13,000 staffers in Gaza, almost all of them Palestinians, ranging from teachers in schools that the agency runs to doctors, medical staff, and aid workers.
"UNRWA reiterates its condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the abhorrent attacks of 7 October" and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages, Lazzarini said.
He did not elaborate on what the staffers' alleged role was in the attacks.
In the unprecedented surprise attack on Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists broke through the security fence surrounding Gaza and stormed nearby Israeli communities, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping some 250.
The U.S. State Department said it was "extremely troubled" by the allegations against the UNRWA staffers and has temporarily paused additional funding for the agency. The U.S. is the biggest donor to the agency, providing it with $340 million in 2022 and several hundred million in 2023.
As CBN News reported in 2018, the Trump administration stopped funding the agency. The Biden administration restored it in 2021.
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