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Egypt’s FM Shoukry Blames Israel for Preventing UNRWA Chief’s Entry to Rafah

March 19, 2024
Image Credit: X/MfaEgypt

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry blamed Israeli authorities for preventing the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini from entering Rafah, Gaza.

In a press conference with Shoukry in Cairo on 18 March, Lazzarini explained that he was scheduled to visit Rafah and inspect the humanitarian conditions of the city but was denied entry.

Shoukry described Israel’s entry refusal of a high-ranking UN official as “unprecedented”.

Lazzarini accused Israel of conducting a destructive campaign to dissolve UNRWA, which caused several Western governments to cut donations.

Israel lobbied for funding to be cut in January 2023 after accusing the UNRWA of staffing members involved in Hamas’ 7 October attack, causing major donors like the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany to suspend funding.

The Israeli government has yet to provide evidence for its accusations against UNRWA, causing the European Union, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and Australia to resume donations to the agency.

“Funding for UNRWA, the UN agency serving millions of Palestinian refugees in various regions, should not be constrained by baseless accusations,” Shoukry emphasized, commending UNRWA’s efforts in supporting Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, and Syria.

“UNRWA’s reputation and 40,000 staff should not be tarnished by mere allegations lacking evidence,” Egypt’s top diplomat added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a ground invasion in Rafah on 16 March, despite warnings against the act from Egypt and other countries.

Rafah currently houses nearly 1.5 million Palestinians, more than half of the Gaza population, most of whom were displaced by the war – with little support for UNRWA to assist the population trapped in the southern city.

In response to the approved military operation, Israel is planning to evacuate the Rafah population to “humanitarian islands” located in central Gaza – described by UNRWA as “catastrophic” shortly after its announcement.

Lazzarini took this official X page to shed light on the worsening humanitarian situation in light of Israle’s refusal to grant him entry.

“Famine is imminent in the northern Gaza Strip, expected to arrive between now and May,” Lazzarini forecasted, describing the hunger crisis plaguing Gaza as man-made.

“This is the highest number of people ever recorded as facing catastrophic hunger by the IPC system and double the number just three months ago,” the UNRWA chief added, while also declaring that children are now dying of dehydration and starvation.

Israel, accused by UN officials and a growing number of governments of prolonging the war on Gaza, is receiving increasing pressure to open entry for more humanitarian aid.

Israeli attacks killed 31,819 Palestinians  at the time of this article, most women and children, in addition to 73,934 injured. Many more remain trapped underneath rubble from bombed buildings.

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