India has ‘serious concern’ over allegations against UNRWA, but considering more aid for Palestinians

United Nations, March 5 (IANS) India has expressed “serious concern” over the allegations against the world body’s beleaguered agency that provides support for Palestinians but said that it was “positively considering” requests for aid.

India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said on Monday, “Recent allegations against the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) are a matter of serious concern”.

However, she added, “We are also positively considering specific requests from the UNRWA for assistance in kind. We urge utmost diligence in the utilisation of these assistance.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced an investigation into allegations made by Israel that UNRWA employees had participated in the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas and several staffers were associated with that group.

He has also set up an independent review headed by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna of the overall working of the organisation.

“We look forward to getting these reports” from the inquiry and the review, Kamboj said while participating in a special meeting on UNRWA convened by General Assembly President Dennis Francis.

Francis warned that UNRWA was in danger of “imminent collapse” and it “may not survive without our immediate and decisive action”.

Sixteen countries led by the US have cut off aid amounting to over $400 million to UNRWA in the wake of the allegations against it.

Kamboj reiterated India’s support to the agency which serves the needs of Palestinian refugees and contributes to the “overall stability in the region”.

“As a mark of its solidarity with the Palestinian refugees” India has been making its annual contribution of $5 million — raised from $1.5 million in 2018,” she said.

The conflict sparked by the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7 “has led to large-scale loss of civilian lives, especially women and children, and has resulted in an alarming humanitarian crisis”, she said.

“It is imperative that humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza be scaled up immediately in order to avert a further deterioration in the situation”, she added.

A peaceful end to the conflict is possible only through dialogue and ultimately only a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine existing side by side will bring enduring peace, she said.

UNRWA was set up by the General Assembly in 1949 to help Palestine refugees displaced during the founding of Israel.

It operates in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan providing 5.9 million refugees food assistance and a range of services from education to healthcare.

It has a staff of 13,000 in Gaza and over 160 of them were killed in the Israel counteroffensive that followed the Hamas attack.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told the General Assembly that the agency “is at a breaking point” because of the cuts to contributions by several countries despite “prompt and decisive actions, and the unsubstantiated nature of the allegations”.

“Without additional funding, we will be in uncharted territory — with serious implications for global peace and security,” he said.

He said that UNRWA was “facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations, and ultimately end them”.

“Part of this campaign involves inundating donors with misinformation designed to foster distrust and tarnish the reputation of the Agency”, Lazzarini said.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for dismantling UNRWA and said that it will not be allowed to operate in Gaza after the war.

Israel’s Permanent Representative Gilad Erdan told the General Assembly that UNRWA’s “role in Gaza is finished, and it must be replaced immediately; UNRWA must be defunded and dismantled”.

At an earlier meeting of the General Assembly on Monday on the US veto of the Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, called the UN a collaborator with Hamas terrorism.

Israel has alleged that 450 employees of UNRWA were members of Hamas or other terrorist organisations.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at and followed at @arulouis)



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