Israel lodges proposal with UN for dismantling of Palestinian relief agency

Israel lodges proposal with UN for dismantling of Palestinian relief agency

The Guardian reports:

Israel has given the UN a proposal to dismantle Unrwa, its relief agency in the Palestinian territories, and transfer its staff to a replacement agency to make large-scale food deliveries into Gaza, according to UN sources.

The proposal was presented late last week by the Israeli chief of the general staff, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi, to UN officials in Israel, who forwarded it to the organisation’s secretary general, António Guterres, on Saturday, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Unrwa was not involved in the talks as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been refusing to deal with it since last Monday, on the basis of claims, so far unproven, of affiliations of some of the agency’s staff with Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Israel insists it is prepared to allow large amounts of aid into Gaza and that the limiting factor is UN capacity. Its decision not to cooperate with Unrwa severely affects that capacity.

Under the terms presented last week, 300 to 400 Unrwa staff would initially be transferred either to another UN agency, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), or to a new organisation specially created to distribute food aid in Gaza.

More Unrwa employees could be transferred in later stages and the agency’s assets would also be transferred. Details were vague of who would run any new agency under the scheme, or of who would provide security for its deliveries.

Unrwa, which has been supporting the Palestinian territories since 1950, has been shut out of conversations on its future existence despite being the largest humanitarian actor in the territory. “Unrwa has not been systematically privy to conversations related to coordinating humanitarian aid in Gaza,” said the organisation’s director of external relations, Tamara Alrifai.

Some UN officials see the Israeli plan as an attempt to portray the UN as unwilling to cooperate if there is famine in Gaza, which humanitarian organisations have warned is impending. On Thursday the international court of justice, which is examining genocide charges against Israel, ordered the Israeli government to take “all necessary and effective measures” to ensure the large-scale delivery of aid to Gaza “in full cooperation with the United Nations”.

Some inside the UN, other aid agencies and human rights groups also see the Israeli proposal as the culmination of a long Israeli campaign to destroy Unrwa. [Continue reading…]

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