Jordan calls for more UNRWA funds after 'shocking' cut during Gaza war

The US and other donors announced a halt in donations to the organisation amid the war in Gaza

Internally displaced Palestinians leave their homes and head towards Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, southern Gaza Strip. EPA
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Donors should give more money to the main UN agency providing relief for Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, instead of withholding it, a Jordanian Foreign Ministry official said.

The US and seven other western countries, including the UK, Australia, Italy, Germany the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland, announced they would freeze their funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The suspension of funds came after Israel said that several UNRWA employees participated in the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7, which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

“Even if the Israeli accusations are proven, punishing the refugees is not allowed,” Rafik Kharfan, head of the Palestinian Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry told state television late on Saturday.

Jordan is home to about two million Palestinian refugees, having received mass flows of people when Israel was created in 1948, and when Israel expanded in the 1967 Middle East War.

Mr Kharfan called for UNRWA funding “to be increased, not stopped”, citing the “difficult conditions” the body is facing because of the war.

The funding freeze is “shocking” and “very negative”, Mr Kharfan said.

The US is the largest donor to UNRWA and the main donor to Jordan. The majority of Palestinian refugees have Jordanian citizenship but are beneficiaries of UNRWA services, such as schools and clinics.

Among UNRWA's constituency are two million Palestinians in Gaza and half a million in Lebanon.

Palestinian health officials said that Israel's invasion of Gaza has killed more than 26,400 people.

The US was instrumental in the establishment of UNRWA in 1949 and is the agency's main donor. It has headquarters in Amman and Gaza. It also works in the occupied West Bank, Lebanon and Syria.

Updated: January 28, 2024, 12:28 PM