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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: Germany joins states pausing UNRWA funding

Published January 28, 2024last updated January 28, 2024

Germany joined the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries in pausing funding to the UN's aid agency for Palestinians. DW has the latest.

A man holding flour as others wait to receive their rations from the UNRWA
Some 2 million Palestinians in Gaza depend on aid from the UNRWAImage: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • UNRWA chief says agency is "collapsing" as countries pause funding
  • Some 80% of Hamas' tunnels in Gaza are still intact, according to a US media report
Skip next section Israeli PM's office says Paris talks 'constructive' but 'gaps remain'
January 28, 2024

Israeli PM's office says Paris talks 'constructive' but 'gaps remain'

Israel said a meeting Sunday with top US, Egyptian, and Qatari officials in Paris on the Gaza war was "constructive," but "significant gaps" remained.

CIA chief William Burns reportedly met with Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials for cease-fire talks.

Earlier US media reported negotiators were making progress on a potential agreement under which Israel would pause military operations against Hamas for two months in exchange for the release of more than 100 remaining hostages.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office did not comment directly on the reports but said the parties would continue to hold discussions.

"There are still significant gaps in which the parties will continue to discuss this week in additional mutual meetings," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

Skip next section Three US service members killed in drone attack in Jordan
January 28, 2024

Three US service members killed in drone attack in Jordan

US President Joe Biden blamed "radical Iran-backed militant groups" for a drone attack in Jordan on Saturday in which three service members were killed.

Biden vowed on Sunday to "hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing" as he paid tribute to "the loss of these warriors in this despicable and wholly unjust attack."

The deaths marked the first fatalities of US troops in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began.

US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been targeted in over 150 attacks since mid-October. In response, Washington has carried out retaliatory strikes in both countries.

Many of the attacks on US personnel have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-linked armed groups that oppose US support for Israel in the Gaza conflict.

You canread the full report on the drone strike by clicking here.

Skip next section Israeli protesters block aid trucks into Gaza
January 28, 2024

Israeli protesters block aid trucks into Gaza

Israeli protesters blocked humanitarian aid trucks from entering the war-torn Gaza Strip, forcing the trucks to turn around at a crossing with the Palestinian territory.

Hundreds gathered for the latest protest at the Kerem Shalom crossing, even though the army said in a statement it had declared the area a "closed military zone."

COGAT, an Israeli Defense Ministry body that oversees civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, said the Kerem Shalom crossing was closed Sunday because "about 200" protesters were demonstrating there.

The protesters, some of whom are relatives of hostages held in Gaza, are opposed to aid reaching Gaza until all Israeli hostages held by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups are released.

Only two border crossings are used to deliver aid to Gaza's 2.4 million residents: the southern Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing and the Egyptian Rafah crossing.

Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel resulted in some 1,140 deaths. The militants also took about 250 hostages, and Israel says at least 132 of them remain in Gaza.

Skip next section UK 'undaunted' after Houthi attack on Royal Navy ship
January 28, 2024

UK 'undaunted' after Houthi attack on Royal Navy ship

British Defense Minister Grant Shapps said the UK remained "undaunted" after Houthi rebels attempted to attack a navy ship in the Red Sea on Saturday.

"Yesterday (Saturday) HMS Diamond successfully repelled a drone attack from the Iranian-backed Houthis in the Red Sea," Shapps said on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling the ongoing attacks "intolerable and illegal."

"Deploying her Sea Viper missile system, Diamond destroyed a drone targeting her," he said, adding that there were no injuries or damage to the ship or its crew.

US and British forces launched their first joint airstrikes on January 12 aimed at reducing the Houthis' ability to target commercial ships passing through the vital Red Sea trade route, which carries about 12% of international maritime traffic. 

The Iran-backed rebels have attacked commercial ships since the start Israel-Hamas war and have vowed to continue attacks until Israel halts the conflict in Gaza.

Skip next section 165 Palestinians killed in past 24 hours, says Gaza health authorities
January 28, 2024

165 Palestinians killed in past 24 hours, says Gaza health authorities

At least 26,422 people have been killed during the Israeli military operation in Gaza since October 7, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory. 

At least 165 people were killed over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said on Sunday. It added that some 65,087 people have been wounded since the fighting began.

The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its tolls, but it has reported that around two-thirds are women and children. International humanitarian agencies consider the numbers provided by the body to be broadly reliable.

Israel has said that its air and ground offensive in Gaza has killed more than 9,000 militants.

Skip next section Israel struggles to destroy Hamas’s tunnel network, report says
January 28, 2024

Israel struggles to destroy Hamas’s tunnel network, report says

About 80% of Hamas' tunnels under Gaza are still intact after weeks of Israeli efforts to destroy them, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that cited US and Israeli officials.

Hindering Hamas' ability to use tunnels is at the center of Israel's efforts to capture the group's top leaders and rescue the remaining Israeli hostages

Some hostages are being held in a command center in a tunnel under Khan Younis, Israeli officials claimed, according to the US newspaper.

The report cited a senior Israeli military official as saying Hamas's top leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, is also hiding in the same location. Israel, Germany, the United States and several other countries have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

An operation on that command center could endanger the hostages, former Israeli officials and military analysts told the WSJ.  

The official told the WSJ that the approach of Israel's forces was focused on clearing "nodes" within the tunnels where Hamas leaders and fighters are hiding rather than checking or destroying the entire system.

Hamas' network of an estimated 1,300 tunnels is thought to be around 500 kilometers (310 miles) long. 

Some tunnels are as deep as 70 meters (230 feet) underground. 
Reports have said that most of the tunnels are just two meters high and two meters wide.

Gaza: Israeli military releases new footage of tunnel system

Skip next section Guterres urges donor states to continue UNRWA support
January 28, 2024

Guterres urges donor states to continue UNRWA support

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on donor states to "guarantee the continuity" of the UN's Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).

The plea came after multiple countries, including Germany, paused their funding following allegations that some of the agency's staffers were involved in the terror attacks on Israel on October 7.

"While I understand their concerns — I was myself horrified by these accusations — I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA's operations," Guterres said in a statement on Sunday.

The UN said it is investigating allegations from Israel that around a dozen UNRWA staff members were involved in the terror attack staged by the Hamas militant group that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 people and the kidnapping of 240 more. UNRWA employs around 13,000 people in Gaza. 

Guterres confirmed that of the 12 employees cited in the allegations, nine had been fired, one was dead, and the identity of the two others was being clarified.

He vowed that "any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution."

At the same time, he said, "the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized. The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met."

Skip next section Hostage deal talks reportedly scheduled for Sunday
January 28, 2024

Hostage deal talks reportedly scheduled for Sunday

Talks to secure another pause in fighting and the release of more hostages are set to take place in Paris on Sunday, according to US media reports.

The New York Times reported that CIA Director William J. Burns will meet with Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials in the French capital.

Meanwhile, two officials who requested anonymity told the Associated Press that the proposed deal would play out in two phases.

In the first phase, the fighting would stop to allow for the remaining women, elderly and wounded hostages to be released by Hamas.

During the first 30-day pause in fighting, Israel and Hamas would then work out the details of the second phase in which Israeli soldiers and civilian male hostages would be released.

The proposed deal would also reportedly allow more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

Skip next section Germany joins countries suspending UNRWA funds
January 28, 2024

Germany joins countries suspending UNRWA funds

Germany joined a growing list of countries to pause funding to the United Nations aid agency for Palestinian refugees, the UNRWA, after Israel alleged that 12 staff members were involved in the October 7 attack by Hamas militants.

The move follows other countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

"Nine countries have, as of today, temporarily suspended their funding to UNRWA," the organization's head, Philippe Lazzarini, said in a statement.

"These decisions threaten our ongoing humanitarian work across the region including and especially in the Gaza Strip."

Lazzarini said  2 million people in Gaza depend on aid from the UNRWA, and that this operation is now "collapsing."

Germany's Foreign Ministry said it would suspend funding "in agreement with other countries" until the UNRWA's own internal investigation is complete.

"We expect Lazzarini to make it clear within UNRWA's workforce that all forms of hatred and violence are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated," the ministry said on social media.

Germany, the United States and Israel are among several countries that classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

zc/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters, DPA)