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UNRWA chief say Israel waging concerted campaign to destroy agency

Israel is waging a concerted campaign aimed at destroying UNRWA, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees claims in an interview published today.

Philippe Lazzarini says calls for his resignation were part of the Israeli government’s push.

  • “Right now we are dealing with an expanded, concerted campaign by Israel aimed at destroying UNRWA,” he tells the Swiss newspaper group Tamedia.
  • “It is a long-term political goal because it is believed that if the aid agency is abolished, the status of the Palestinian refugees will be resolved once and for all — and with it, the right of return. There is a much larger political goal behind this.”
  • “Just look at the number of actions Israel is taking against UNRWA,” the main aid body in the Gaza Strip, he says.

He cites measures in the Israeli parliament, moves to remove the agency’s VAT exemption and orders for contractors at Israel’s port of Ashdod to “stop handling certain food deliveries for UNRWA.”

  • “And all these demands come from the government.”

Furthermore, Lazzarini says more than 150 UNRWA installations have been hit since the Gaza war began.

  • Israel has called for Lazzarini to step down following the discovery that at least 12 UNRWA staffers directly took part in the October 7 massacres and hostage-taking and at least another 30 provided assistance. Several thousand of them are affiliated with terror organizations.

Israel also discovered a Hamas tunnel housing a major server center under UNRWA’s evacuated Gaza City headquarters.

Lazzarini said the tunnel was 20 meters below ground and UNRWA as a humanitarian organization did not have the capabilities to examine what was underground in Gaza.

The tunnel was found to be drawing electricity from the headquarters.

He also said Israel was alone in calling for him to quit and there was “no reason” to comply with a single UN member state’s demand for him to go, “especially since my resignation would not improve the situation at UNRWA.”

  • “The criticisms are not concerned with me personally, but with the organization as a whole. The calls for resignation are part of the campaign to destroy UNRWA,” he says.

Israel has long argued that UNRWA perpetuates antisemitism and glorifies terrorism in its schools. The recent allegations have led several donor countries to announce funding freezes, leading to concerns that the agency, which says it is the main conduit for aid for millions in the Strip amid the Israel-Hamas war, could stop operating in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East within weeks.

Source: TOI