Several countries suspend UNRWA funding over claims staff were involved in Hamas attack

Tánaiste Micheál Martin says State has no plans to suspend agency funding as battles rage in Gaza

Israel pressed ahead on Saturday with its campaign against Hamas in Gaza’s Khan Younis, as bad weather hit displaced Palestinians seeking refuge further north in the battered enclave.

It comes as several countries have decided to suspend financing of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) after Israel accused several employees of involvement in Hamas’s October 7th attack which saw 1,200 people killed and 253 abducted.

The United States, UK, Finland, Italy, Australia and Canada have all suspended their funding for the UN agency while an investigation into the allegations takes place.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the State has no plans to suspend funding to the UN agency.


“Full confidence in @UNLazzarini‘s decision to immediately suspend @UNRWA staff suspected of participation in the heinous attacks of October 7, to investigate thoroughly and show zero tolerance on terror,” Mr Martin said in a post on X.

“UNRWA’s 13,000 employees provide life saving assistance to 2.3m people and at incredible personal cost - with over 100 staff killed in last 4 months.

“[Ireland] provided @UNRWA €18m in 2023 and will continue our support in 2024.”

UNRWA, established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, provides services including schooling, primary healthcare and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, vowed to hold “accountable, including through criminal prosecution” any UNRWA employee found to have been involved in “acts of terror”. The UN chief, António Guterres, has pledged to conduct an “urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA”.

Mr Lazzarini said that the contracts of workers allegedly involved in the Hamas-led attack have been terminated “to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance”.

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Peggy Wong, said on Saturday she was “deeply concerned” by the UNRWA allegations. “We are speaking with partners and will temporarily pause disbursement of recent funding,” she wrote on social media platform X.

Residents reported heavy aerial and tank fire across Khan Younis, an area of southern Gaza that has become the focus of Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas, and around two main hospitals there.

In Gaza, residents reported heavy aerial and tank fire across Khan Younis, an area that has become the focus of Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas, and around two main hospitals there.

Hamas said its fighters fired an anti-tank missile against an Israeli tank in southwest Khan Younis.

The Israeli military said it killed at least 11 gunmen who were trying to plant explosives near troops and others firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at soldiers in Khan Younis.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, allied with Hamas, said its fighters were engaging Israeli forces in the area and had fired rockets into Israel.

The Gaza ministry for health said Israeli strikes hit in the vicinities of Al-Amal Hospital and the largest functioning medical facility in the south, Nasser Hospital.

The Israeli bombardment was compromising healthcare and endangering the lives of doctors, patients and displaced people, ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said.

The Israeli military says it is in contact with hospital directors and medical staff by phone and on the ground to make sure that they are running and accessible. Israel says Hamas operates in and around medical facilities, an allegation the group denies.

In a ruling on Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stopped short of ordering a ceasefire but ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said afterward that the war aimed at eliminating Hamas would continue.

In the southern city of Rafah, Zainab Khalil (57), displaced with her family several times until reaching shelter not far from the border with Egypt, said the ICJ’s ruling was important but not enough. “We want a ceasefire now,” she said.

Israel launched its air, sea and land offensive after militants from the Hamas group that rules Gaza stormed into Israel on October 7th.

Some 26,257 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 65,000 wounded in the conflict so far, including 174 killed in the last 24 hours, Gaza health authorities said on Saturday. The majority of the enclave’s 2.3 million population has been displaced.

Israel says 220 soldiers have died since it launched its ground offensive. It says it has killed at least 9,000 Gaza militants so far, a figure that Hamas has dismissed.

Residents and Hamas militants reported fighting on Saturday in the central and northern parts of the enclave, where heavy rain flooded tents of those displaced, forcing some to seek alternative shelter in the middle of the night.

In Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s people are now taking cover in shelters and tents, the ministry for health said an Israeli air strike killed three people in a house there.

It was not immediately clear who the casualties were and there was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

In the occupied West Bank, one man was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli forces near Jenin, residents said. – Reuters