Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong has announced the temporary suspension of funding for the UN’s relief agency in Gaza following allegations staff were involved in Hamas’ October 7 attacks.
Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said on Friday, January 26, 2024, that Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023.
“To protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay,” Lazzarini said.
Lazzarini did not disclose the number of employees allegedly involved in the attacks, nor the nature of their alleged involvement.
He said, however, that “any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror” would be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.
Wong said in a statement on Saturday that Canberra welcomed the decision by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to open an investigation.
“Australia will engage closely with UNRWA on investigations and is consulting with international partners,” she stated.
“While we temporarily pause disbursement of recently announced funding,” she added.
“Australia will continue to support the people of Gaza and work to provide humanitarian assistance. We reiterate our calls for civilians to be protected, and for civilian access.”
Canberra’s announcement comes after the US and Canada earlier announced they would pause funding to UNRWA following the allegations.
Malaysia Welcomes ICJ Ruling
Also on Saturday, Malaysia’s government welcomed the International Court of Justice’s interim ruling in South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.
“Malaysia has been vindicated in her call for Israel to be held accountable for the atrocities, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, following the landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice [ICJ] 26 January 2024,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Kuala Lumpur said it also looked forward to the upcoming proceedings in the case and reiterated its calls for Palestine to be admitted as a full member of the United Nations and recognised as a state based on the pre-1967 borders.
Meanwhile, Uganda’s representative to the UN said that a Ugandan judge who voted against all provisional measures sought by South Africa in its ICJ case against Israel does not represent the country.
Judge Julia Sebutinde was the only one of the international court’s 17 justices to vote against all six provisional measures Israel has been ordered to undertake.
“Justice Sebutinde ruling at the International Court of Justice does not represent the Government of Uganda’s position on the situation in Palestine,” Adonia Ayebare said in a post on X.
“She has previously voted against Uganda’s case on DRC. Uganda’s support for the plight of the Palestinian people has been expressed through Uganda’s voting pattern at the United Nations,” Ayebare added.
Uganda is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and hosted the forum’s most recent meeting earlier this month in Kampala, during which participants strongly condemned Israel’s war in Gaza.
Despite the ICJ ruling calling for an end to all acts of genocide committed by the Israeli military, the bombing continues and overnight a residential home in Rafah city was targeted with three people reported killed.
The constant systematic attacks on healthcare facilities in Khan Younis is also ongoing.
The largest facility, the Nasser hospital, has been under attack for the past few weeks.