UN to hold account any UN employee involved in Oct 7 attacks, urges countries to continue donations for Gaza aid

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the governments to continue supporting the UNRWA after 9 countries stopped funding.

In a press conference held on Sunday, January 28, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed allegations of UN Refugee Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) staff involvement in the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. Guterres vowed to hold to account ‘any UN employee involved in acts of terror’, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the organization’s integrity and commitment to peace.

But the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked the governments to continue supporting the UNRWA (UN Refugee Agency for Palestinians) after around nine countries stopped funding.

Guterres acknowledged the severity of the allegations and assured that a thorough investigation would be conducted to determine the veracity of the claims. He underscored the UN’s commitment to upholding its principles and maintaining the trust of the international community in its efforts to address global crises.

The UN chief stated that the Secretariat is prepared to collaborate with a competent authority capable of prosecuting the individuals, following the Secretariat’s regular procedures for such cooperation. He further added by saying that the tens of thousands of men and women who worked for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized.

Simultaneously, the Secretary-General implored member states to continue supporting UNRWA, despite recent challenges. Funding for the agency has encountered a setback as nine countries decided to temporarily pause their financial contributions. Guterres highlighted the critical role UNRWA plays in providing essential services to Palestinian refugees, including education, healthcare, and necessities.

The pause in funding from some nations has raised concerns about the potential impact on the well-being of Palestinian refugees who heavily rely on UNRWA assistance. Guterres urged governments to consider the broader humanitarian implications and continue supporting the agency to ensure the continuous delivery of aid to those in need.

In the first direct comment, the UN chief provided details about the UNRWA staffers implicated in the ‘abhorrent alleged acts.’ As stated by the UN chief, out of 12 implicated, nine had been terminated. Meanwhile, one was confirmed dead and a clarification is going on regarding the identities of the other two.

Many countries like Britain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Finland joined the U.S., Australia, and Canada in putting a stop to funding to the aid agency, which was an important source of support for people in Gaza, after the allegations by Israel.

Guterres also stated that while he understood their concerns he was horrified by the accusations and strongly appealed to the governments that had suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations. The UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini asserted that it would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an agency and an entire community it served because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement, and political crises in the region. In a statement, he also urged countries to reconsider and resume funding by saying that the lives of people in Gaza depended on this support and also the regional stability.