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UNRWA personel in Gaza. Credit: UNRWA Facebook page

March 10, 2024 (EIRNS)—UNRWA is at “risk of death” after a string of donors suspended their funding, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said yesterday. “The agency is at risk of death, it is risking dismantlement,” Lazzarini told Swiss broadcaster RTS in an interview aired on March 9. “What is at stake is the fate of the Palestinians today in Gaza in the short term, who are going through an absolutely unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

Separately, UNRWA has charged that some of its employees released into Gaza from Israeli detention reported having been pressured by Israeli authorities into falsely stating that the agency has Hamas links and that staff took part in the Oct. 7 attacks. According to Reuters, the assertions are contained in a report by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, reviewed by Reuters and dated February 2024, which detailed allegations of mistreatment in Israeli detention made by unidentified Palestinians, including several working for UNRWA.

UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma said the agency planned to present the information in its unpublished 11-page report to agencies inside and outside the UN that specialize in documenting potential human rights abuses. “When the war comes to an end, there needs to be a series of inquiries to look into all violations of human rights,” she said.

“Agency staff members have been subject to threats and coercion by the Israeli authorities while in detention, and pressured to make false statements against the Agency, including that the Agency has affiliations with Hamas and that UNRWA staff members took part in the 7 October 2023 atrocities,” the report says.

Reuters says that it could not independently confirm the accounts of coercion of UNRWA staff and the mistreatment of detainees, although the allegations of ill treatment accord with descriptions by Palestinians freed from detention in December, February and March, reported by Reuters and other news media.