United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday pleaded with donor countries to keep the U.N.’s Palestinian relief agency financially afloat after some governments suspended funding amid allegations that some agency staff aided the Hamas attacks on Israel last October.
The agency’s current funding will not carry it through next month, Guterres said.
Germany and the Netherlands were among the latest countries to join the U.S. in freezing funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after Israel accused a dozen of its employees of involvement in the brutal incursion by the Hamas militant group that left more than 1,200 people dead.
“I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations,” Guterres said in a statement.
“Two million civilians in Gaza depend on critical aid from UNRWA for daily survival, but UNRWA’s current funding will not allow it to meet all requirements to support them in February,” he said.
At the same time, Guterres said he was “horrified” by the accusations. The U.N. is “taking swift action” to investigate the allegations by the Israeli intelligence services, he said. “The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences.”
“The tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized,” Guterres said.
Washington — the biggest donor to the UNWRA — on Friday said it would suspend funding to the agency following the Israeli claims. The U.K., Italy, Finland, Canada and Australia were among those making similar announcements over the weekend.
Guterres said that nine of the 12 people implicated in the allegations have been fired; one is confirmed dead; and the identity of two others is still being “clarified,” according to the statement.
The U.N.’s internal oversight service is also investigating the allegations, he said. That’s in addition to a “full, independent review” of the UNWRA announced on January 17.
“Any U.N. employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” Guterres said.
The agency, founded in 1949 to aid displaced Palestinians, has faced growing scrutiny in the wake of the Hamas attacks on October 7. The UNWRA provides key aid and shelter to besieged Gazans as Israeli forces seek to root out Hamas in a war that has killed more than 26,000 Gazans.