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Israel-Hamas war: UN warns 'no replacement' for UNRWA aid

Published January 30, 2024last updated January 30, 2024

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to meet major donors to the Palestinian refugee agency that has come under strain amid allegations members of its staff were involved in the October 7 attacks. DW has more.

Palestinians line up for flour is being distributed by UNRWA
The UN agency provides aid to millions of Palestinians — not only in Gaza but in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and SyriaImage: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The UN chief will meet UNRWA donors in New York amid fears of funding shortages
  • Biden says decision made on response to deadly drone strike in Jordan 
  • Israeli undercover agents raid hospital in occupied West Bank, killing three
  • Hamas says it is 'examining' proposal for Gaza peace

This live updates article has been closed. For the latest developments on the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, please click here.

Skip next section UN warns no organization can replace UNRWA's aid
January 30, 2024

UN warns no organization can replace UNRWA's aid

The UN's senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza warned on Tuesday that there is no substitute for the humanitarian role the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) plays in Gaza. 

"There is no way that any organization can replace or substitute [the] tremendous capacity, the fabric of UNRWA, [their] ability and their knowledge of the population in Gaza," said Sigrid Kaag, an experienced Dutch diplomat who took the post in late December. 

Several key UNRWA donors, including the United States, Germany, and Japan, halted funding to the agency following allegations from Israel that some staff played a role in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

The UNRWA said it had acted promptly over the Israel allegations, sacking 12 of its staff immediately and launching an investigation and review. 

Earlier on Tuesday, the UN Security Council expressed concern about the "dire and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Gaza.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to meet donor countries on Tuesday in New York. 


Suspension of funding a ‘catastrophe for UNRWA’: DW’s Teri Schultz

Skip next section Israel army says 'large volumes' of water pumped into Gaza tunnels
January 30, 2024

Israel army says 'large volumes' of water pumped into Gaza tunnels

Israel's military said in a statement Tuesday that it has destroyed some Hamas tunnels in Gaza by flooding them. 

"During the war, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has implemented new capabilities to neutralize underground terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip by channeling large volumes of water into the tunnels."

The IDF has said Hamas spent years building a vast network of tunnels under Gaza to hide weapons and house fighters, with entrances to the network said to be hidden in public facilities like hospitals.

"It is part of a range of tools deployed by the IDF to neutralize the threat of Hamas's subterranean network of tunnels," the statement added. 


Israel reveals images of 'Hamas tunnel network'

Skip next section Biden says he's decided on response to Jordan drone attack
January 30, 2024

Biden says he's decided on response to Jordan drone attack

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday told reporters at the White House that he had decided on a response to the drone attack that struck a US military base in Jordan, killing three service members and injuring dozens more on Sunday. 

The president did not specify what decision he had made but said he had consulted with his top advisers before settling on a response.

The US has said Iran-backed groups in the Middle East were behind the attack. Asked if he held Iran responsible for Sunday's deadly drone attack, Biden said, "I do hold them responsible in the sense that they are supplying the weapons to the people who did it."

At the same time, he insisted: "I don't think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That's not what I'm looking for."  

US vows response to deadly drone attack

Skip next section Netanyahu says no Gaza withdrawal without 'total victory' over Hamas
January 30, 2024

Netanyahu says no Gaza withdrawal without 'total victory' over Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel would not withdraw its forces from Gaza or free thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. The statement came amid reports from Qatar that "progress" had been made on negotiating a cease-fire agreement. 

Representatives from the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt held talks in recent days on a potential deal for a temporary halt to fighting in Gaza and the release of hostages held by Hamas militants. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he was "examining" a proposal, but said the priority for the militant group would be the "full withdrawal" of Israel's forces from Gaza. 

"We will not end this war short of achieving all of its objectives. That means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel," Netanyahu said on Israeli TV. "We will not compromise on anything less than total victory."

Hamas militants kidnapped around 250 people from southern Israel during its terror attack on October 7. A cease-fire deal in November saw the release of more than 100 hostages, mostly women and children, in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. 

Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, Germany, Israel and other governments, is still holding around 130 hostages. 

Mother of Gaza hostage Naama Levy tells her story

Skip next section Former UNRWA head questions timing of Israel's accusations
January 30, 2024

Former UNRWA head questions timing of Israel's accusations

Matthias Schmale, the former head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), has suggested that Israel's accusation against a number of the agency's employees in Gaza was politically motivated.

While he said he was not surprised by reports that some UNRWA staff had sympathies for Hamas, and may have taken part in the October 7 attacks, he was surprised by the timing of Israel's accusations.

"The timing seems very politically determined to me," he told German public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Tuesday.

The Israeli report came a day after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that at least some of Israel's actions in Gaza, which were presented to the court by South Africa, fell within the provisions of the UN's Genocide Convention.

Schmale also rejected a claim made by The Wall Street Journal that 10% of the 12,000 employees working for UNRWA had connections to Hamas or other groups.

"During my time, we always observed very closely how people work, how they behave, whether they behaved in accordance with UN values and took measures when we understood that this was not the case," he told the broadcaster.

ICJ: Israel must act to prevent genocide in Gaza

Skip next section Charities slam suspension of UNRWA aid
January 30, 2024

Charities slam suspension of UNRWA aid

A group of major charities, including Oxfam and Save the Children, have slammed the decision by 12 countries to suspend their funding of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) after Israel accused several of its members of being involved in the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

"The suspension of funding by donor states will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians, over half of whom are children," the NGOs said in a joint statement.

"The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel's continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza," the statement said.

The charities pointed out that 152 UNRWA staff have already been killed by Israeli military strikes, and 145 of the UN agency's facilities had been damaged.

"If the funding suspensions are not reversed, we may see a complete collapse of the already restricted humanitarian response in Gaza," the charities said, adding a call for the states to "reverse these funding decisions."

Skip next section WHO says row over UNRWA is a 'distraction' from crisis in Gaza
January 30, 2024

WHO says row over UNRWA is a 'distraction' from crisis in Gaza

Following the decision by several major Western states to suspend their funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), the UN's health agency, the WHO, has urged donors not to be "distracted."

"Criminal activity can never go unpunished," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said at a media briefing in Geneva. "But the discussion... [is] a distraction from what's really going on every day, every hour, every minute in Gaza."

"It's a distraction from preventing electricity to come into Gaza," he said.

"It's also a distraction from the continuous shelling of an entire population — even in areas that just moments before have been designated as safe areas. It's a distraction from attacking shelters, schools, hospitals," he added.

At least 12 countries, including Germany and the United States, suspended their funding for the agency after Israel accused several of its members of having been involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks that killed over 1,100 people.

Israel's subsequent operations in Gaza have left more than 26,700 people dead, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which has said most of those killed were women and children. The offensive has also destroyed — or put out of operation — much of the enclave's infrastructure, including UN-run health centers.

"We appeal to donors not to suspend their funding to UNRWA at this very critical moment. [It] will only hurt the people of Gaza who desperately need support," Lindmeier said, citing WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Skip next section Hamas says it is 'examining' Paris proposal for Gaza truce
January 30, 2024

Hamas says it is 'examining' Paris proposal for Gaza truce

Palestinian militant group Hamas said on Tuesday that it was "examining" a truce proposal thrashed out in Paris over the weekend that aims to halt the war in Gaza.

The proposal was a result of discussions in the French capital on Sunday involving CIA chief William Burns and top Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials.

According to Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose government helped broker a previous truce in November and who attended the talks, the plan proposes a phased truce that would see women and children being held as hostages released first, with aid also entering Gaza.

It is hoped that an initial deal might then lead to a permanent cease-fire, with Sheikh Mohammed saying that "good progress" had been made.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed hope for a deal, telling reporters that "very important, productive work has been done. And there is some real hope going forward."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called the talks "constructive" but pointed to "significant gaps which the parties will continue to discuss."

In a statement published on Telegram, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh confirmed that "the movement" had received the so-called Paris proposal and was "in the process of examining it and delivering its response."

Hamas is an Islamist group that is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, as well as some Arab states.

Who was behind the Middle East truce extensions?

Skip next section Israeli forces raid hospital in occupied West Bank, killing 3
January 30, 2024

Israeli forces raid hospital in occupied West Bank, killing 3

Undercover Israeli security forces raided a hospital in the occupied West Bank early Tuesday, killing what it said were three Hamas militants. The militants were using the hospital as a hideout, according to the Israeli military.

The Israeli military claimed one of the men targeted in the raid had facilitated the transfer of arms and weapons to others for a planned attack on Israel similar to those of October 7, which triggered the current war.

The Israeli military provided no evidence to back the claim.

The AFP news agency quoted the hospital's director as saying: "A group of Israeli forces entered the facility undercover and assassinated the men." 

A video recording said to be hospital security camera footage shows what seems to be roughly a dozen heavily armed individuals dressed as civilian Muslim women and medical staff as they move inside the building.

A hospital spokesperson said there was no exchange of fire.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the incident occurred inside the wards of the Ibn Sina Hospital in the northern city of Jenin.

The ministry condemned the raid and called on the international community to pressure Israel's military to halt operations in hospitals.

Israeli forces raid hospital in Jenin

Skip next section UN chief Guterres to host UNRWA donors in New York
January 30, 2024

UN chief Guterres to host UNRWA donors in New York

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet with major donors to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in New York in a bid to keep up funding for the body.

UNRWA is facing cuts in critical funding after a number of donor countries suspended aid following allegations by Israel that the agency's staff members were involved in the October 7 attacks in Israel.

The UN agency has fired several employees over the matter and said it is conducting a thorough investigation.

UNRWA operations may grind to a halt due to lack of funding

At least 12 donor countries have halted funding so far, including EU members Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland and Austria.

The EU has not suspended aid, and its next disbursement isn't scheduled until the end of February.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, said it expects UNRWA to agree to a review by EU-appointed independent experts. 

The EU is the third-biggest donor to UNRWA after the US and Germany, both of whom have temporarily suspended funding to the agency following the allegations. 

A UN spokesperson said the 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza are continuing to work as the war grinds on, including helping over one million people in overcrowded UNRWA shelters.

At least 26,637 people have been killed and 65,387 wounded in Gaza since October 7, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza. The donors who suspended UNRWA funding are among the countries that designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.

rm/nm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)