No further funding has been scheduled in the short term for UN’s relief agency in Gaza regardless of the suspension of support, the Government has said.
It comes after the UK joined the US, Australia, Italy and other countries in pausing funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after it sacked a number of its staff who were accused of taking part in the October 7 attack on Israel.
The funding will be stopped while an investigation takes place, but it has sparked concerns about the impact the decision will have on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza as the Israeli bombardment continues.
Juliette Touma, director of communications at UNRWA, said a continued suspension of funding for the agency would have “very, very serious repercussions”.
“We are extremely desperate. It has come at a time when the humanitarian needs in Gaza are growing by the hour,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Downing Street said £16 million has been given to the agency since the Hamas incursion into Israel in October, which sparked the current conflict.
But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said no further funding is expected to be released to the agency in the coming weeks.
“There is a pause in place and we are conducting an investigation,” he said.
“Obviously we are in contact with our Israeli counterparts and UNRWA as well.
“My understanding is that we have committed £16 million to UNRWA following the Hamas terror attacks, but this was dispersed before the allegations came to light.
“I’m not aware of any remaining UNRWA funding that hasn’t been used. In the meantime, we’re working with a number of other partner organisations – so Unicef, the Red Cross and others – to deliver our uplift of aid into Gaza.”
He said the UK will not “be providing any additional funding while this work continues”.
Downing Street downplayed concerns that aid funding could have gone to Hamas, with the spokesman saying such a question is not “a live issue or something that we think has happened”.
He added: “We have tight controls and agreements and due diligence on how the funding is used, as you would expect, but it’s right in light of these allegations that we’ve conducted a further investigation with our allies and seek the reassurance that will be required in order to allow funding to continue.”
The row over funding for UNRWA comes amid rising tension in the Middle East after a drone attack on Sunday killed three US troops and injured dozens more in north-eastern Jordan, near the Syrian border.