Failure to reinstate UNRWA funding is 'negation of duty' Rishi Sunak told

Palestinian children who fled with their parents from their houses in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh, gather in the backyard of an UNRWA school, in Sidon, Lebanon, Sept. 12, 2023. An independent review released Monday, April 22, 2024, of the neutrality of UNRWA, the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees, has found that Israel never expressed concern about anyone on the staff lists it has received annually since 2011. The review was carried out after Israel alleged that a dozen employees of the agency had participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.
UNRWA has been caring for Palestinian refugees since it was founded in 1949. Credit: AP

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of "negation of duty" for failing to reinstate UK funding to a UN agency supplying aid in Gaza.

Funding for UNRWA was halted earlier this year after allegations from Israel that about a dozen of the agency’s employees were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack.

However, an independent report into the neutrality of the UN agency has said Israel had not provided evidence for the claims.

Countries including Canada, France and Germany have already resumed their funding, but the UK said it was awaiting the report’s publication, which was released on Monday.

Brendan O’Hara, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman at Westminster, has written to Mr Sunak and Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron, saying the UK government was “not concerned with the ongoing intentional starvation of the Palestinian people”.

The SNP's Brendan O'Hara has urged Rishi Sunak and Lord David Cameron to resume UNRWA funding. Credit: PA

The Argyll and Bute MP said he understood the initial allegations against UNRWA by Israel had to be “taken seriously”, but he added: “However, while the UK has repeatedly told Parliament that it prioritises humanitarian aid into Gaza, we only have evidence to the contrary.”

He went on to say a failure to reinstate funding was a “categorical negation of duty from both parties and demonstrates to Parliament and the public, that the UK government is not concerned with the ongoing international starvation of the Palestinian people, and potential war crimes being committed by Israel”.

In March, the UK government said it would take decisions on the future of UNRWA funding “as soon as we think it is possible to do so”.

UN aid workers hand out food parcels at the front of the queue. Credit: UNRWA

Mr O’Hara said the allegations and subsequent cessation of funding to UNRWA “resulted in the serious inability” of humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian city.

He said: “The UK government does not feel the need to comment, criticise or contribute to the ongoing deconstruction of the international world order which is unfolding before our eyes. This is shameful.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the events that took place on October 7 in Israel are appalling, which is why we took decisive action to pause future funding to the organisation.

“The Prime minister has been clear that the UK will set out its position on future funding to UNRWA following careful consideration of Catherine Colonna’s final report, UNRWA’s response and the ongoing UN Office for Internal Oversight Services’ investigation into these allegations.”

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