The UN appoints an independent panel to assess the workings of the UN Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed an independent panel to conduct an assessment of the UN agency that assists Palestine refugees, UNRWA.
This follows accusations by Israel that some staff members were involved in the Palestinian Resistance operation on October 7. Several countries – including the US, Canada, and France – have suspended funding worth $440 million due to the allegations. UNRWA terminated the contracts of the staff members concerned.
The independent Review Group – appointed in consultation with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini – will “assess whether the Agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made,” Guterres said in a statement on Monday.
It will be led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who will work with three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, and the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.
The Review Group will begin its work on 14 February 2024 and is expected to submit an interim report to the Secretary-General late March 2024, with a final report expected to be completed by late April 2024. The final report will be made public.
The Secretary-General noted that Israel’s accusations come at a time when UNRWA, the largest UN organization in the region, “is working under extremely challenging conditions to deliver life-saving assistance to the 2 million people in the Gaza Strip who depend on it for their survival amidst one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world. “
This independent external review will take place in parallel with an investigation currently underway by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) into allegations of the involvement of 12 UNRWA personnel in the October 7 operation.
“The cooperation of the Israeli authorities, who made these allegations, will be critical to the success of the investigation,” the statement added.
Lazzarini welcomed the announcement of the review panel, saying “I look forward to the conclusion and recommendations of the report which will be made public.”
Relief Convoy Attacked
On Monday, Lazzarini, condemned the Israeli attack on an UNRWA relief convoy that was hit by Israeli naval gunfire, while waiting to travel into Northern Gaza.
“Although we send notifications about all aid convoys and we coordinate all our movements, aid convoys continue to come under fire,” Lazzarini said on X.
“Civilians & aid to civilians must be protected at all times,” he stressed.
UNRWA warned that “We cannot deliver humanitarian aid under fire.”
“Safe and sustainable humanitarian access is urgently needed everywhere including to the north of Gaza,” the agency said on X.
Death Toll Rises
Israel is being accused of committing genocide in Gaza. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 27,708 Palestinians have been killed, and 67,147 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.
Moreover, at least 8,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip.
Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.
The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all of the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.
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