Qatar PM warns of disaster in Gaza if UNRWA funding stops

Qatar PM warns of disaster in Gaza if UNRWA funding stops
Qatar's prime minister 'warned of the disastrous repercussions that could result from stopping' UNRWA's funding, Doha's foreign ministry has said.
3 min read
04 February, 2024
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani serves as Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister [KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty-archive]

Qatar's prime minister has warned of disaster if funding is stopped to the UN's Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, during a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani highlighted UNRWA's role in assisting millions of people in the Gaza Strip, where the agency provides vital aid to at least two million Palestinians in the long-besieged enclave. 

Its service provisions also stretch across the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

"His Excellency warned of the disastrous repercussions that could result from stopping [UNRWA's] funding," the ministry said in a press release.

"He also called for separating the agency as an international institution with well-established values and traditions from the allegations against a number of its employees who are under investigation", the statement added.

Israel has claimed that at least six members of the agency's staff participated in the 7 October attack on Israel, though it originally levelled allegations at 12 employees.

UNRWA has 13,000 employees in the enclave, meaning that even if all allegations are accurate, they represent a mere 0.09 percent of its Gaza staff.

The United Nations opened a probe and sacked a number of the employees facing allegations. The rest are either dead or are currently having their identities confirmed, according to reports from late last month.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted on 29 January that claims about UNRWA employees had yet to be "fully borne out".

"I had a very good conversation with… Guterres last week when we were first made aware of these allegations, and we are going to be looking very hard at the steps that UNRWA takes, again, to make sure that this is fully and thoroughly investigated, that there's clear accountability, and that as necessary, measures are put in place so that this doesn't happen again, assuming the allegations are fully borne out," Blinken said.

"We haven't had the ability to investigate them ourselves, but they are highly, highly credible."

Israel has also alleged that some 10 percent of UNRWA's Gaza staff are tied to Hamas or the smaller militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli accusations have led to countries including the US, UK, Germany, Australia, and Japan suspending their funding of UNRWA, threatening the agency's ability to respond to the devastating humanitarian fallout from Israel's war on Gaza.

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN's highest court, found on 26 January that Israel is plausibly violating the Genocide Convention in Gaza.

The court ordered Israel to abide by several provisional measures ahead of its final ruling in the case brought by South Africa, which is expected to take years.

The ICJ instructed Israel to act to enable the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

Israel's war on Gaza has so far killed more than 27,200 people in the strip – the majority women and children.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths and political and peacebuilding head Rosemary DiCarlo were also at Saturday's meeting with Al Thani, the Qatari foreign ministry said.