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Australia among countries pausing funds for UN refugee agency for Palestinians

Australia among countries pausing funds for UN refugee agency for Palestinians
Australia is among a growing list of countries that have paused funding for the United Nations' refugee agency for Palestinians, after Israel alleged some of the agency's staff were involved in the October 7 terrorist attacks. 
On Saturday, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and Finland became the latest countries to pause funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The agency itself has responded to the allegations by terminating the contracts of some staff members to protect the agency's ability to deliver humanitarian assistance.
Here's what we know so far about the allegations levelled against the UNRWA and the subsequent action.
The UNRWA is a critical source of support for people in Gaza.
The agency was set up to help refugees of the 1948 war at Israel's founding, and provides education, health and aid services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Throughout more than 100 days of the Israel-Gaza war there have been allegations, including from Israel's Defence Forces, of Hamas exploiting UN resources or using UNRWA facilities for military purposes.
On Sunday afternoon Australian time, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement condemning anyone who participated in the October 7 terrorist attack.
He said nine staffers had been terminated, one had died and the identities of two more were being clarified. 
"Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution," he said.
"The secretariat is ready to cooperate with a competent authority able to prosecute the individuals in line with the secretariat's normal procedures for such cooperation.
"The tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalised. The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met."
Mr Guterres issued a direct plea to Australia and the other countries that had paused funding.
"While I understand their concerns – I was myself horrified by these accusations — I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA's operations," he said.


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