UK wants ‘absolute guarantee’ of no repeat of UNWRA allegations, says Cameron

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 9:33 AM

SOFIA (Reuters) – Britain wants an “absolute guarantee” that the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNWRA) will not employ staff who are willing to attack Israel, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Wednesday, after allegations that some were involved in the Oct. 7 violence.

Britain last month joined the United States in “temporarily pausing” funding for UNWRA following allegations that around 12 of its thousands of Palestinian employees were suspected of involvement in the Hamas attack that triggered the Gaza war.

Donors such as Britain and the United States have indicated they will not resume support until the U.N.’s internal investigation into the allegations ends. A preliminary report is due to be published in the next several weeks.

Asked what Britain needed to see in the report in order to resume funding, Cameron said: “What we’re looking for is an absolute guarantee that this can’t happen again. Let’s be clear here that it looks as if there were people working for UNWRA who took part in the October 7th attacks on Israel. That is unacceptable.”

“That’s why we paused our funding. That’s why these reviews are taking place,” he told reporters during a trip to Bulgaria. “We need them to take place quickly because many UNWRA staff do an absolutely vital job inside Gaza, where they are the only network for distributing aid, to make sure that we get aid to people that need it very, very badly.”

UNRWA was established in 1949 following the war of Israel’s founding, when 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes. Nearly the entire Gaza population now relies on UNRWA for basics including food, water and hygiene supplies.

The head of UNRWA said on Tuesday that calls for it to be dismantled were short-sighted and that terminating the agency’s mandate would deepen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Britain has provided funding for UNRWA until the end of the financial year and it says it is working with other agencies to help get aid into Gaza.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Sofia, Writing by Kylie MacLellan in London, Editing by Nick Macfie)