May 19, 2024

Canada and Sweden are resuming funding for the main United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees in Gaza, citing the spiraling humanitarian catastrophe there and saying that the agency had taken steps to improve accountability amid accusations that some of its employees had links to Hamas.

The countries were among more than a dozen that suspended payments to the aid organization, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, known as UNRWA, after accusations in January by Israel that a dozen of its 13,000 employees in Gaza had been involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel or their aftermath.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was “a serious mistake” for the two countries to restart financing the U.N. agency. “It constitutes tacit consent and encouragement on the part of the governments of Canada and Sweden to continue to ignore the involvement of UNRWA employees in terrorist activity,” the statement said.

UNRWA has argued that Israel has targeted it with a “deliberate and concerted campaign” to undermine its operations when its services are most needed. Warnings of widespread hunger bordering on famine have become more urgent, and signs of desperation are growing as people resort to consuming animal feed or ambushing aid trucks.

In a government statement on Saturday, Sweden said that it would disburse a conditional first payment of some $20 million. It said that UNRWA had agreed to allow independent audits and to strengthen internal oversight.

“In this urgent situation, when the need is so great among the civilian population, it is first and foremost important to save lives,” the statement said.

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