Guterres cooperated with UNRWA to appoint the Independent Evaluation Group (French)

Today, Monday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, appointed an independent review group to evaluate whether the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) ensures impartiality in its work and to respond to Israeli accusations of committing violations, while Spain announced its intention to send additional funding to the agency, and the Israeli Knesset demanded a halt. Permanent financing.

The United Nations stated - in a statement - that the appointment of the evaluation group came in consultation with the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, and that it will be headed by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

The United Nations statement indicated that the appointed group will begin its work on February 14, and will submit an initial report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in late March, and a final report in late April.

The statement pointed out that the work of the independent external review will be carried out in conjunction with the investigation conducted by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services into allegations of the involvement of 12 UNRWA employees in the attack of last October 7.

The statement explained that Colonna will work in cooperation with 3 research organizations in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

For his part, Lazzarini - via the X platform - welcomed Guterres' appointment of an independent review group to evaluate the agency's neutrality.

For his part, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Monday that his government has evidence of UNRWA's connection to what he called terrorism, and that it will present it to the new committee formed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to evaluate the agency's work.

“We will present all the evidence that shows UNRWA’s links to terrorism and its harmful effects on regional stability,” Katz wrote on the “X” platform. “It is necessary for this committee to reveal the truth.”

Spain supports UNRWA

In a related development, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albarez announced that his country would send UNRWA additional aid worth 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million).

Manuel stressed that UNRWA is working in a miserable situation, and that there is a real danger that threatens its humanitarian activities in Gaza with paralysis during the next few weeks, according to his description.

Madrid provided direct contributions worth 18.5 million euros to UNRWA last year, including 10 million euros approved last December after the decision to triple development and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territories.

Permanent funding halt

In Israel, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said that a member of the Knesset from the Likud Party, Dan Illouz, sent a letter to parliamentarians in countries that froze their funding to UNRWA, calling for the funding cessation to become permanent.

The newspaper reported that 20 other members of the Knesset signed the letter, demanding that alternatives to UNRWA be found, and accused it of "terrorism and undermining the principles of peace and security."

The letter claimed that the distribution of aid in the future must be in line with the Israeli approach to “promoting peace and stability” in the region, amid Israel’s continued targeting of UNRWA aid convoys and obstructing its work in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Last week, 14 countries - the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Romania, the Netherlands and New Zealand - announced the cessation of funding for UNRWA following Israeli accusations against 12 employees out of 30,000 working in Gaza of participating in the Al-Aqsa flood.

The European Union had warned that stopping funding for UNRWA would put the lives of thousands at risk, following UNRWA's announcement that it would likely stop its humanitarian operations in the Middle East - not just Gaza - at the end of this month.

Source: Al Jazeera + agencies