UNRWA chief refuses to bow to Israeli calls for him to quit role

The head of UNRWA, the UN’s embattled agency for helping Palestinian refugees, has said that he won’t accede to Israeli calls for him to step down.
Sky News asked Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, if he would resign in order for the agency to move forward.

“If the issue was leadership, I would agree with you,” Mr Lazzarini replied. “The real issue is not leadership, it is the dismantling of the organisation. Whoever will be at the helm of the organisation, the objective to dismantle UNRWA will still remain.
“So I don’t believe that leaving a boat in turmoil is the answer to give today.”
Mr Lazzarini added that he was appointed by the UN secretary-general and reports to the UN General Assembly.

“We have the support of the vast majority of member states,” he said. “The [resignation] call comes only from one member state.”
UNRWA provides vital aid for huge numbers of displaced Gazans but has been thrown into disarray after Israel alleged that 12 staff members were involved in the 7 October Hamas attack.

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The UN agency swiftly dismissed those staff members ahead of an investigation, but more than a dozen countries – including the UK and the US – have suspended funding, leaving UNRWA facing a $450m shortfall and an “existential threat”, according to Mr Lazzarini.


The UNRWA commissioner-general was in Dublin for talks with Ireland’s Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Micheal Martin, who announced an increase in Ireland’s UNRWA funding to €20m for this year, and accused Israel of a “disinformation campaign” against the agency.
“There needs to be more serious analysis of Israel’s strategy in respect to UNRWA,” said Mr Martin.
“It’s not just about the organisation, it’s about the broader picture of the right of return, of the creation of a Palestinian state, of a two-state solution.”

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He continued: “So you attack UNRWA and you actually undermine the prospect of a two-state solution, and you undermine the prospect of the Palestinian state.
“So that’s really what is behind what has been a systemic campaign of undermining the UN agencies more generally by Israel, and more specifically UNWRA.”
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Image: Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid desperate shortages of food in Rafah. Pic: Reuters
Ireland has been a vocal critic of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. This week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that Israel has become “blinded by rage” and is no longer even listening to the advice of its close ally, the United States.
Mr Varadkar said there was “a serious risk of a massacre occurring” in Rafah if there was a ground assault, which he said would be a “gross violation of international law on top of all the other violations of international law which Israel is responsible for”.
Ireland, along with Spain, has also urged the European Commission to launch an urgent review of the EU’s trade agreement with Israel, which contains human rights obligations.

Source : Sky News