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Spain Steps Up to Support the Palestinian UNRWA Amidst Controversy

February 6, 2024

Spain has announced its decision to provide an additional EUR 3.5 million in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). 

Portugal, in addition to Spain, has also pledged EUR 1 million in aid to the agency, 

The move comes as major donors, including the United States and Germany, suspended funding due to allegations of employee involvement with Hamas. 

Spain’s Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, emphasized the desperate situation faced by UNRWA, warning that its humanitarian activities in Gaza could be paralyzed within weeks. 

The funding crisis facing UNRWA has raised alarm bells among European leaders and humanitarian organizations. 

European leaders, including the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, have expressed concerns about the dangers of cutting off funding to UNRWA, emphasizing that defunding the agency would be disproportionate and hazardous.

Israel’s allegations that some UNRWA employees, including teachers, have ties to Hamas. However, the Palestinians and UNRWA have accused Israel of falsifying information to undermine the agency’s credibility. UNRWA has taken the allegations seriously, investigating the claims, and has also terminated some staff members. 

Germany has demanded that UNRWA conclude its internal investigation into the Israeli claims before approving new funding. France, on the other hand, clarified that it has not suspended transfers to UNRWA but has no planned disbursements for the first semester of 2024. Meanwhile, Sweden’s funding decision will depend on UNRWA’s interim report.

UNRWA’s role as a critical lifeline for the 1.2 million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza cannot be understated. The agency provides essential services, including emergency financial, medical, and social aid, in 58 refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.  

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