Israel Palestine Conflict

UNRWA funding freeze risks ‘aiding’ deaths in Gaza: Saudi official

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Freezing funds to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees risks “aiding” the deaths of civilians in Gaza, the head of Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian agency told AFP on Tuesday.

Several countries - including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan - have suspended funding to the UNRWA agency in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff members participated in the October 7 attack by Hamas militants.

Last week, as its war against Hamas entered a fifth month, Israel’s military also said troops had uncovered a Hamas tunnel under UNRWA’s evacuated Gaza City headquarters.

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The UN has sacked the 12 UNRWA staff members accused by Israel of involvement in the October 7 attack and said the tunnel claim should be investigated once the conflict is over.

“We should not penalize the innocent people, millions of people who are living in Gaza, because of an accusation on a handful of people,” Dr Abdullah al-Rabeeah, head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, told AFP in an interview on Tuesday.

“If you have close to two million people living in a small place... and then the funding for the food and for the health basics is stopped, basically you are calling for them to live in, actually, disaster and also aiding in their death.”

Rabeeah, who is also an adviser to the Saudi Royal Court, spoke as Gaza braced for an expected Israeli incursion into the crowded southern city of Rafah where more than a million Palestinians are trapped.

He warned that such an operation would produce “chaos” and potentially trigger the “complete stoppage” of aid trucks.

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“We will see thousands of people losing their lives. Now people talk about the threat of epidemics, the threat of famine, and you name it. So we don’t want to see any civilian get lost because of things that can be avoided,” he said.

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