The U.N. company that gives help to Palestinians has been an important lifeline within the Gaza Strip for generations — and it was a degree of competition with Israel lengthy earlier than a number of the company’s workers had been accused of involvement within the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault on Israel.
The allegation, made by Israel, is a severe blow to the popularity of the United Nations Reduction and Works Company for Palestine Refugees, commonly known as UNRWA. The declare was acted on by each the United Nations, which mentioned on Friday that it had fired the accused employees and was investigating, and the USA, which mentioned it was suspending some funding for the company.
Right here’s a more in-depth have a look at the group and its work.
What does UNRWA do?
UNRWA supplies an array of social companies for folks registered as Palestinian refugees within the wars surrounding the formation of Israel, and for his or her descendants in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The company looms particularly giant in Gaza, the place a lot of the inhabitants of greater than two million individuals are registered as refugees. Gaza has been below a longstanding Israeli blockade, and Hamas — thought of a terrorist group by a lot of the world — wields management. No nation’s authorities takes even partial duty for governing the territory, and the Palestinian Authority, which workout routines restricted powers within the West Financial institution, was successfully expelled from Gaza in a 2007 energy wrestle with Hamas.
UNRWA builds and operates colleges, medical clinics, shelters and playgrounds all through the territory. It supplies meals, housing help and emergency loans and even oversees some rubbish assortment. It is likely one of the largest employers in Gaza, with 13,000 employees, most of them Palestinian, a rarity in an enclave the place almost half of adults are unemployed.
“Basically, for the previous few many years we now have been working a parallel authorities in Gaza,” Hector Sharp, the top of the company’s authorized workplace, mentioned in an October interview.
What are the allegations in opposition to UNRWA?
It’s not fully clear.
U.N. and American officers referred to claims that some UNRWA workers could have been “concerned in” the Oct. 7 assaults, however didn’t elaborate on that involvement or say whether or not it included any of the worst atrocities dedicated that day.
The State Division referred to 12 workers being accused and fired — UNRWA didn’t provide a quantity — however it’s unclear what sort of work they did or how senior they had been. It additionally stays to be seen whether or not investigations will yield extra such allegations.
What’s UNRWA’s relationship with Israel?
Israel has lengthy accused UNRWA of working in collusion with Hamas, serving to it indoctrinate Gazans with anti-Israel propaganda, and turning a blind eye to Hamas militants firing rockets at Israel and working an enormous tunnel community within the territory.
Hamas oversees what little civilian public administration exists in Gaza, so folks and companies below its management inevitably work together with the company, however the extent and nature of that cooperation has been the topic of many competing claims.
Israel additionally objects to labeling these born exterior of Israel as refugees.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has gone as far as guilty the company for perpetuating somewhat than assuaging the plight of Palestinians and has referred to as on the United Nations to disband it.
Israeli officers have lengthy charged that Arab nations “need the Palestinian refugee drawback to stay unresolved, in order that there’s a relentless reminder of the Palestinian tragedy,” mentioned Ahron Bregman, a senior instructing fellow at King’s School London who specializes within the Arab-Israeli battle. “UNRWA, because the Israelis see it, is a device to maintain the Palestinian refugee drawback unresolved.”
However some specialists say that regardless of the hostile public remarks, Israel, which occupied Gaza from 1967 to 2005, has wanted the company to supply stability there. “Behind the scenes Israel has usually favored UNRWA’s work,” mentioned Anne Irfan, an professional on Palestinian refugee rights at College School London.
Why was UNRWA arrange?
UNRWA was established in 1949 to help some 700,000 Palestinians who fled or had been expelled from Israel through the wars surrounding its creation and had been prohibited by Israel from returning.
Many settled in refugee camps that the company helped create, which have since change into built-up, principally impoverished city areas.
Palestinians are the one refugee group whose assist shouldn’t be dealt with below the worldwide mandate of the Workplace of the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees.
UNRWA is funded virtually fully by voluntary donations by U.N. member states, with the USA and European Union international locations offering a lot of the financing.
The company, which has mentioned it was in need of funds even earlier than the present warfare started, has appealed for a serious infusion of cash to deal with the extra want.
What has UNRWA’s function been throughout this warfare?
Since Israel started its bombing marketing campaign and floor invasion in retaliation for the Oct. 7 assault, UNRWA has taken major duty for making an attempt to shelter Gazans displaced from their properties — now almost 90 p.c of the inhabitants.
The company has transformed its colleges, clinics and workplaces into emergency shelters which have change into badly overcrowded, and has additionally arrange sprawling tent camps. It has additionally been closely concerned in distributing deliveries of badly wanted meals, water and medication.
It has additionally shared the struggling of individuals in Gaza, the place the well being ministry says greater than 25,000 folks have been killed within the warfare. The company says that 152 of its workers are among the many lifeless and that 141 of its amenities have been broken or destroyed.
Megan Specia and Ben Hubbard contributed reporting.