UN Chief Forms Panel to Review UNRWA Agency Amidst Controversy
UN Chief Forms Panel to Review UNRWA Agency Amidst Controversy

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, revealed on Monday the establishment of an independent panel to assess UNRWA, the agency dedicated to aiding Palestinian refugees, amidst mounting controversies.

UNRWA faces scrutiny following allegations by Israel implicating 12 staff members in the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

Numerous countries, including the United States, Germany, Britain, and Sweden, have halted funding to the agency in response.

The newly formed independent panel, spearheaded by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, will collaborate with three European research organizations, according to a UN statement.

The primary objective of the investigation is to determine whether the agency is upholding neutrality and adequately addressing allegations of serious misconduct.

The panel is scheduled to deliver an initial report to Secretary-General Guterres by late March, followed by a final report in late April, potentially containing recommendations for enhancing the agency's operations.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz commended the UN's initiative in assembling the panel, expressing intentions to provide evidence of UNRWA's alleged connections to terrorism and its adverse impact on regional stability.

However, it's important to note that the panel's mandate doesn't encompass investigating the specific allegations made by Israel against UNRWA employees purportedly involved in the Hamas attack. The United Nations initiated an internal investigation last month to address these claims separately.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric emphasized the hope that donors acknowledge the swift actions taken by the Secretary-General to address any existing issues.

The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in approximately 1,160 casualties, predominantly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official data.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously asserted that Hamas had extensively infiltrated the UN agency. Israel launched a substantial military campaign aiming to eradicate Hamas, resulting in the deaths of at least 27,478 individuals in Gaza, primarily women and children, according to the health ministry of the Hamas-controlled territory.

The European organizations assisting in the independent assessment of UNRWA are the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

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