Spain said on Monday that it would give an additional €3.5 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which is facing a cash crunch after several nations suspended their funding.
Over a dozen countries, including major donors the United States, Germany, Britain and Sweden, have suspended their funding to the agency over accusations that 12 of its staff members were involved in the 7 October attacks in Israel by Hamas.
The UNRWA – which has received a Norwegian nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize – has warned that it will have to cease operations by the end of February if the funding is significantly pulled. Belgium and Norway are continuing to fund the UNRWA.
‘Spain will release an urgent envelope of €3.5 million so that UNRWA can maintain its activities in the short term,’ Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares told a parliamentary committee.
‘UNRWA’s situation is desperate and there is a serious risk that its humanitarian activities will be paralysed in Gaza within a few weeks,’ he said.
‘The 1,200 Israeli victims on 7 October and more than 26,000 Palestinian victims in Gaza are unbearable. The spiral of violence in the Middle East must stop. We are going to increase support for the UNRWA when it needs it most: to assist the Palestinian civilian population and avoid famine,’ Albares said.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday that suspended total funds currently amount to ‘more than $440 million, or around half the agency’s expected funds for 2024’.
In response to the 7 October attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mainly civilians, Israel vowed to wipe out Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that the UN agency had been ‘totally infiltrated’ by Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
Israel has responded to the attack with an air and ground offensive that has killed 27,365 people, mainly civilians, according to a Hamas health ministry toll updated Sunday.
Spain is one of the most critical voices in Europe of Israel’s offensive against Hamas.
Las 1.200 víctimas israelíes el 7 octubre y más de 26.000 víctimas palestinas en Gaza son insoportables. La espiral de violencia en Oriente Medio debe parar.— José Manuel Albares (@jmalbares) February 5, 2024
Vamos a incrementar el apoyo a @UNRWA cuando más lo necesita: para asistir a población civil palestina y evitar hambruna. pic.twitter.com/gTXNaquVxR
🚨At the end of this month, we may have to stop our humanitarian aid operations.— UNRWA (@UNRWA) February 1, 2024
This means: ❌ food assistance, ❌ cash assistance, ❌ education, ❌ healthcare for MILLIONS of people.
Can we count on you to help us continue?#DonateToUNRWA 👉 https://t.co/go7BeMj9B7 pic.twitter.com/UBgU7s7XkY