Why are western countries cutting funding to Gaza’s biggest aid agency?

Several countries have pulled their funding for the UN relief agency

Listen | 21:21

Last week, Israeli authorities alleged that employees of UNRWA, the Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, were involved in the October 7th Hamas attacks.

In response, several countries pulled their funding for the UN agency, jeopardising the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to the desperate citizens of Gaza.

UN chief António Guterres has made an urgent plea for these countries to reverse their decision and promised to hold to account any UNRWA staff member who participated in the attacks. However, the “dire needs of a desperate population” in Gaza must still be met, he said.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin also warned it would be “catastrophic” if more countries ceased funding and said that countries – including the US and UK – which have pulled funding “have acted far too prematurely”.

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UNRWA, which was founded in 1949 and employs more than 30,000 people, works with Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and other Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Syria.

What will be the impact of these financial cuts for Palestinians on the ground?

And, following the death of three US soldiers during a drone attack on an American base in northeast Jordan, could the Gaza conflict be poised to escalate into a wider and much more dangerous regional war?

Today: Another critical moment for Gaza and Israel. In the News speaks with Mark Weiss in Jerusalem about UNWRA, hostage negotiations and the risk of a wider war.

Presented by Sorcha Pollak. Produced by Suzanne Brennan and Declan Conlon.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast