UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres conducts a press conference following the opening session of the Third South Summit of the Group of 77 and China (G77+China) in Kampala on January 21, 2024. (LUIS TATO / AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed to donor states to ensure the resumption of aid to Gaza after several nations suspended funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The move followed allegations that some UNRWA staff participated in the October 7 massacre. While expressing understanding for concerns, Guterres emphasized that the alleged actions of a few should not penalize the thousands of other humanitarian workers providing crucial services to Palestinian refugees.

In response to Israel’s unspecified accusations, UNRWA terminated several employees, prompting donor nations, including the United States, Germany, Britain, Italy, Australia, and Finland, to halt contributions. Guterres called for continued support to meet the dire needs of the displaced populations served by UNRWA.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks while holding a photo of weapons sent by Iran to Houthi rebels in Yemen that were intercepted by US forces, during a UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, on January 23, 2024. (Peter K. Afriyie/AP)

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, criticized Guterres for seeking funds amid the allegations, accusing him of prioritizing UNRWA over Israeli citizens’ safety. Foreign Minister Israel Katz called for the resignation of UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini, asserting the need to replace the agency with organizations dedicated to genuine peace and development.

The October 7 conflict resulted in significant casualties and sparked a massive offensive by Israel to curb Hamas in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry reported over 26,000 deaths and 64,000 injuries, including civilians and Hamas operatives. Israel insisted on a comprehensive investigation into UNRWA’s alleged support for terror before further funding is considered.

As the funding cuts jeopardize UNRWA’s operations in Gaza, tensions persist over the handling of the allegations and the agency’s role in the region.