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23 May, 2024
 
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UNRWA faces EU investigation over Hamas attack allegations

EU demands immediate probe amid alleged terror

By Alexandra Voudouri

The European Commission has urged the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to grant permission for EU experts to conduct an urgent financial audit. This request follows claims by Israel that certain UNRWA personnel were involved in the Hamas attack on October 7.

In a specific announcement, the Commission stated that it "expects UNRWA to agree to this audit by independent experts appointed by the EU."

The role of these experts will be to "review (…) focusing specifically on control systems necessary to prevent potential staff involvement in terrorist activities," the Commission added. However, EU funding remains unaffected for now, with the next funding installment scheduled to proceed as usual before the end of February, according to a Commission spokesperson. It's worth noting that the EU is the second-largest contributor to the agency after the US.

UNRWA initiated an investigation on Friday to verify Israeli allegations regarding staff members' involvement in the Hamas attack.

Several member states have already reviewed or halted their funding to the UN agency, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, and Finland. Similar decisions have been made by the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi emphasized the Commission's request for "an audit of UNRWA's systems by independent experts," along with a review "of UNRWA's pillar assessment ensuring EU funding protection." Additionally, the Commission has urged the agency to conduct checks on "all personnel and enhance internal procedures."

Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer clarified that there are two separate processes: the Commission's audit and the UN agency's investigation. He explained that the Commission's audit is broader, assessing the pillar based on which they collaborate with UNRWA and monitoring its activities to prevent personnel involvement in terrorist activities.

Regarding future funding decisions, the Commission stated that it will consider the serious allegations made on January 24 about the involvement of UNRWA personnel in the October 7 attacks before releasing any additional funds. However, the impact on the EU's financial contribution to the UN agency remains unclear.

"I cannot specify the timeline for the audit requested by the Commission and whether it will be completed by the time the payment is due," the spokesperson remarked. "These actions are urgent and significant and will commence without delay," he stressed, highlighting the need for the organization to conduct the announced investigation and return the audit to be conducted by EU experts.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  EU  |  Hamas  |  funding  |  government  |  UN

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