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UPDATING LIVE: 'Insidious campaign' by Israel is denying live-saving aid to Gaza says UNRWA chief
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UPDATING LIVE: ‘Insidious campaign’ by Israel is denying live-saving aid to Gaza says UNRWA chief

3:26 PM

UNRWA: ‘Indispensible lifeline’ says Malta

Speaking in his national capacity Foreign Minister of Malta, Ian Borg said UNRWA was “an indispensable lifeline for Palestine refugees” in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the region, as well as a “stabilizing force”

“Preserving the lifesaving role and operations of UNRWA must be our primary objective,” he stressed.

He also voiced deep concern over the continued hostilities and the harrowing humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, and ongoing attacks against humanitarian and medical personnel.

Foreign Minister Ian Borg of Malta addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

“We are witnessing an entire population being brought to the brink of conflict-induced starvation, with credible reports that famine has already taken hold in the north [Gaza].”

Foreign Minister Borg welcomed the UN’s swift response in the establishment two investigations into the “deeply concerning” allegations of involvement of UNRWA staff in the 7 October terror attacks.

He also welcomed the independent review into UNRWA’s neutrality, noting that the interim report indicated “UNRWA has in place a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with humanitarian principal of neutrality.”

“We now look forward to outcome of both inquiries…and call on all parties to fully cooperate with these inquiries,” he said, urging donors to resume “desperately needed funding.”

3:15 PM

‘Insidious campaign’ to end UNRWA aid operation in Gaza: Lazzarini

UNRWA is the backbone of the aid effort to stop Gaza slipping into famine, Mr. Lazzarini told ambassadors, and beyond that it has championed Palestinian development for decades.

“Today an insidious campaign to end UNRWA’s operations is underway, with serious implications for international peace and security”, he said.

Now it faces an existential threat as relentless bombing and “a merciless siege have transformed Gaza beyond recognition.”

Children have begun to die of malnutrition and dehydration, he said, while food and clean water are just across the border.

Stopped from saving lives

“But UNRWA is denied permission to deliver this aid and save lives. This outrage is occurring despite consecutive orders by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to increase the flow of aid into Gaza – which can be done if there is the political will”, he added.

Security Council members “have the power to make a difference”, he declared, with an overwhelming majority of Member States backing UNRWA.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini addresses the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

The Israeli Government “seeks to end” the agency and requests to deliver aid to the stricken north are being repeatedly denied.

Mr. Lazzarini noted the challenges UNRWA has been facing since the war started, including attacks on its premises and staff, killing 178 personnel and damaging or destroying over 160 premises.

Demand for independent investigation

He said their premises have been used for military purposes, by Israeli forces, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, and its headquarters occupied militarily.

UNRWA personnel detained by Israeli security forces have shared “harrowing accounts” of mistreatment and torture in detention.

“We demand an independent investigation and accountability for the blatant disregard for the protected status of humanitarian workers, operations, and facilities under international law,” he stressed.

“To do otherwise would set a dangerous precedent and compromise humanitarian work around the world.”

The UNRWA chief addressed the allegations against individual agency personnel of involvement in the 7 October attacks: “Horrified by the allegations, I immediately terminated the appointments of those concerned,” he said, noting the investigation ordered by the Secretary-General as well as the independent review on how UNRWA upholds its neutrality.

He added that despite the prompt and decisive actions, a significant amount of donor funding remains suspended, with serious operational implications.

Committed to review findings

“Be assured that we remain firmly committed to implementing the recommendations of the review and to strengthening existing safeguards against neutrality breaches,” Mr. Lazzarini said.

He also warned that dismantling UNRWA will have “lasting repercussions”.

“It will make nearly impossible the formidable task of bringing half a million deeply distressed girls and boys back to learning,” he said, stressing that “failing to deliver on education will condemn an entire generation to despair – fueling anger, resentment, and endless cycles of violence.

“A political solution cannot succeed in such a scenario.”

“I urge you to commit to a genuine political process culminating in a solution that can bring peace to Palestinians and Israelis,” he told ambassadors, calling for an acknowledgement that a political process alone will not guarantee a sustainable peace.

“We must recognize – and reflect in our words and actions – that Palestinians and Israelis share a long and profound experience of grief and loss. That they are equally deserving of a peaceful and secure future.”

3:10 PM

The meeting is just getting underway with the Foreign Minister of Malta Ian Borg presiding, since his country holds the presidency for the month.

Members stood for a minute of silence in memory of all those humanitarian workers killed in the line of duty.

1:40 PM – Philippe Lazzarini has said the agency is facing a “deliberate and concerted campaign” to undermine its operations at a time when it’s crucial services – delivered by over 12,000 mostly local staff in Gaza – are most needed.

So far, some 178 UNRWA officials working in Gaza have been killed since Israel’s bombardment and military campaign began last October.

In January, the Israeli Government presented the UN with information accusing 12 UNRWA employees of taking part in the 7 October terror attacks but has yet to provide that evidence to the organisation. UNRWA nevertheless terminated their employment and began an internal investigation.

The UN chief also set up an independent review overseen by a former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, which is due to report at the end of this week.

Funding crisis

Some 16 countries led by the United States announced a funding freeze for UNRWA – or suspension of future funding – in response to the allegations of collusion but some of those countries have since reversed course and resumed funding.

Mr. Lazzarini wrote to the General Assembly, which provides UNRWA its mandate, and later briefed Member States in March, saying the agency was at “breaking point” across the region and under serious threat of grinding to a halt. 

Israel’s announcement in late March that they would no longer approve any UNRWA food convoys into northern Gaza meant that the clock is ticking “faster towards famine”, he said on X, formerly Twitter.

Diplomacy continues in New York

Ambassadors last met on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza on 5 April when they heard top UN aid officials make an appeal for the Security Council to help end the carnage there six months on from the start of the conflict.

The Maltese mission which holds the presidency for the month of April said in a post on X, that there will be a vote on a draft resolution put forward by Algeria this coming Friday. 

The draft is focused on the diplomatic push by some countries to admit Palestine as a full Member State of the UN, in the wake of the crisis in the Middle East.  

Although a special committee on UN membership did not come up with a conclusive recommendation this week, the Algeria draft recommends to the General Assembly that the State of Palestine “be admitted to membership in the United Nations.”

Here’s a reminder of the HIGHLIGHTS from the Council meeting on 25 March which passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire during Ramadan:

  • The UN Security Council adopts a resolution tabled by its 10 non-permanent members (E-10) demanding a ceasefire in Gaza during Ramadan, by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with one abstention (United States)
  • Resolution 2728 also calls for the immediate release of hostages and for ensuring humanitarian access to Gaza
  • The Council rejected a Russia-proposed amendment that would have called for a permanent ceasefire
  • The US ambassador said her delegation “fully supports” the critical objectives of the draft
  • Algeria’s ambassador says the ceasefire will end “the bloodbath”
  • “This must be a turning point,” says the ambassador for the observer State of Palestine
  • The draft’s lack of condemnation of Hamas is “a disgrace”, says Israel’s ambassador

For summaries of UN meetings, visit our colleagues at the UN Meetings Coverage in English and French