Canada will restore funding to Palestinian refugee agency: Official

AP , Wednesday 6 Mar 2024

Canada will restore funding to the United Nations Relief Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), a government official tells The Associated Press, weeks after the agency lost hundreds of millions of dollars in support following Israeli allegations against some of its staffers in Gaza.

UNRWA workers prepare to distribute food to Palestinians. Photo courtesy of UNRWA.


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation first reported that Canada would restore funding and that International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen would announce the decision on Wednesday.

But the government official told the AP the announcement has been delayed, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to comment on the matter.

Canada’s foreign minister is currently in the Middle East and plans to visit Israel.

The Israeli war on Gaza has driven 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes, and UN officials say a quarter of the population is starving as access to the enclave is restricted.

The UNRWA is the main supplier of food, water, and shelter there, but it is on the brink of financial collapse.

Israel accused 12 of its employees of participating in the attacks on Israeli targets on October 7.

In response, more than a dozen countries including Canada suspended funding to UNRWA worth about $450 million, almost half its budget for the year.

UNRWA, which employs roughly 13,000 people in Gaza, is the biggest aid provider in the enclave.

Two UN investigations into Israel’s allegations were already underway when the European Union said Friday it would give 50 million euros ($54 million) to UNRWA after the agency agreed to allow EU-appointed experts to audit the way it screens staff to identify extremists.

Israel now alleges that 450 UNRWA employees were members of militant groups in Gaza, though it has provided no evidence.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, said Monday that he has "never been informed” or received any evidence of Israel’s claims.

Every year, he said, UNRWA provides Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a list of its staff, “and I never have received the slightest concern about the staff that we have been employing.”

The only allegation communicated to him verbally was about the 12 UNRWA staffers alleged to have participated in the Oct. 7 operation, he said, and they appeared so serious that they were fired.

UNRWA in a statement has accused Israel of detaining several of its staffers and forcing them, using torture and ill-treatment, into giving false confessions about the links between the agency, Hamas, and the October 7 operation.

The Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip since Oct.7, has killed at least 30,717 Palestinians while 72,156 people have been wounded, 70% of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The latest toll includes 86 deaths over the past 24 hours, according to the ministry. 

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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