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UK pauses funding for UNRWA over claims staff involved in Hamas attack

The UK will suspend funding for the UN’s relief agency in Gaza over claims made by Israel that a number of its employees were involved in Hamas’s October 7 attack.

The Foreign Office said Britain is “appalled” by allegations about staff at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and will temporarily pause support while a review takes place.

It comes after the UNRWA said it had sacked several of its employees in Gaza suspected of taking part in last year’s assault by Hamas and other militants on southern Israel.

Palestinians try to extinguish a fire at a UNRWA vocational training centre which displaced people use as a shelter in Khan Younis
Palestinians try to extinguish a fire at a UNRWA vocational training centre which displaced people use as a shelter in Khan Younis (Ramez Habboub/AP)

The Foreign Office said in a statement: “The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK Government has repeatedly condemned.

“The UK is temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA whilst we review these concerning allegations.

“We remain committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza who desperately need it.”

The relief agency has played a key role in providing aid for the enclave’s population amid the humanitarian disaster caused by Israel’s offensive in the wake of the October 7 attack.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said it terminated contracts with “several” employees and ordered an investigation after Israel provided information alleging they played a role in the assault.

The UK follows the US – the agency’s biggest donor – Australia, Italy and Canada in temporarily pausing funding.

The US state department said allegations had been made against 12 employees.

UNRWA has 13,000 staff in Gaza, almost all of them Palestinians, ranging from teachers in schools that the agency runs, to doctors, medical staff and aid workers.

In its October 7 attack, Hamas broke through the security fence surrounding Gaza and stormed nearby Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people and kidnapping some 250.

Israel’s offensive – one of the deadliest and most destructive in recent history – has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and left more than 64,400 wounded, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.