Multiple donors have suspended additional funding for UNRWA
Multiple donors have suspended additional funding for UNRWA. Photo: AFP AFP News

The United Nations have warned that the already catastrophic situation in Gaza could be worsened by a "collapse of the humanitarian system".

This news comes as UN officials criticise countries, including the UK and the US, for refusing to fund its top aid agency operating in the besieged enclave.

Last week, the UN admitted to firing several staff members working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) after they were accused of being involved in Hamas' October 7 assault on Israeli civilians.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said that he was "horrified by the news", which paired the UNRWA workers to the kidnapping and killing of Israelis.

In response to the findings, the UNRWA, home to around 13,000 employees, warned international authorities that the current lack of funding will force the organisation to halt all of its operations within the coming weeks.

Agreeing with Guterres, a statement by the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee said that the "allegations of involvement of several UNRWA staff in the heinous attacks on Israel on 7 October are horrifying".

"As the secretary-general has said, any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable. However, we must not prevent an entire organisation from delivering on its mandate to serve people in desperate need," the statement continued.

UNRWA funding
In 2022, the US donated more than $300 million dollars to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Sophie RAMIS/AFP

The refusal to fund UNRWA is "perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza", the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee added, noting that there would be "far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the occupied Palestinian territory and across the region".

"The world cannot abandon the people of Gaza," the statement pleaded.

In Gaza, where, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, Israel's bombardment of the Strip has killed more than 26,700 Palestinians, officials say that the ongoing conflict has displaced the vast majority of civilians and left 25 per cent of people facing starvation.

The supporting nations who have withdrawn from funding the UNRWA include Japan, Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Romania, Estonia, Australis, the UK and the US.

In one video, published and filmed by the Israeli Defence Force amid a raid on a house in Daraj Tuffah this month, the militants claim to have found a suicide vest, a Hamas military kit, Kalashnikov rifles and a UNRWA membership card.

According to local media outlets in Israel, an investigation into the UNRWA employees who were fired found that one UNRWA Teacher named 'Alaa' worked as a Platoon Commander for Hamas in Nusseiret and was involved in the Be'eri massacre on October 7.

A second worker, identified as 'Faisal', was employed by the UNRWA as a Social Worker. According to the Israeli news channel N12, the UNRWA worker was also a member of Hamas' Nusseiret Battalion and helped facilitate the movement of an IDF soldier's corpse.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the firing of UNRWA staff by describing the organisation as being "perforated with Hamas". The right-wing Prime Minister continued to note that Israel has "discovered that there were 13 UNRWA workers who actually participated, either directly or indirectly, in the 7 October massacre".

Mattew Miller, a spokesman for the US State Department, said that the US will resume its funding after the UN has rooted out any employee who could be associated with the proscribed terrorist group.

"There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food and water and medicine at the scale that UNRWA does," Miller recognised, going on to note that the US "want to see that work continued which is why it is so important that the United Nations take this matter seriously, that they investigate, that there is accountability for anyone who is found to have engaged in wrongdoing".