Israel Hamas War Everything you need to know about UNRWA

Israel Hamas War: Everything you need to know about UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees

One by one, the participants close the financial floodgates. No fewer than eight countries, led by the United States, have announced in the last 24 hours that they will end their aid to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. According to the Israeli government, the latter counts among its employees people who were involved in the Hamas attack on October 7th.

But what is Unrwa really? What is his role? His story? We tell you more.

Born at the founding of Israel

UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in December 1949, following the first Arab-Israeli conflict that broke out the day after Israel's founding in May 1948. The organization was intended to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to the Palestinian refugees registered in its area of ​​operations “while they await a just and lasting solution to their situation.”

According to the United Nations, more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their country between April and August 1948, when Israel was founded. These people and their descendants have the status of refugees. And UNRWA is the only guarantor of their international status.

UNRWA intervenes in the Palestinian territories, but also in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Around 5.9 million Palestinians are registered there and can benefit from services such as education, healthcare, social services, camp infrastructure, microfinance and emergency aid, including in times of armed conflict.

In total, there are around sixty refugee camps managed by the organization, including 19 in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. More than 540,000 children learn in UNRWA schools.

13,000 employees in Gaza

In the Gaza Strip, where Hamas took power in 2007, the humanitarian situation was critical even before the war between Israel and the Islamist movement began.

According to the UN, there are eight camps and around 1.7 million refugees in the 365 km2 area, which corresponds to a total population of around 2.4 million people.

According to the organization's website, 13,000 of the organization's 30,000 employees work in the Gaza Strip, spread across more than 300 facilities.

A first break with Trump

In 2018, Donald Trump's United States, UNRWA's largest donor, ended its $300 million (€270 million) annual financial assistance.

Israel – which welcomed the American decision – accuses UNRWA of “perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” by perpetuating the idea that many Palestinians are refugees with the right to return to the country.

After President Joe Biden was elected, Washington resumed payments starting in 2021.

October 7th and the current crisis

This Friday, Unwra separated from several employees (twelve according to the US) who were accused of being involved in the Hamas attack on October 7th. Washington “temporarily” stopped all additional funding, and other countries followed: Canada, Australia, Italy, United Kingdom, Finland, Netherlands, Germany.

In 2022, funding from the regular UN budget and contributions from other UN agencies amounted to $44.6 million.