After suspending UNRWA funding, Canada will send an additional $40 million to Gaza

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Canada is sending another $40 million in aid to organizations helping people in the Gaza Strip after suspending funding to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians – even as an MP warns that the UN agency is the only one capable of providing the aid Gaza needs.

The additional funding, bringing the total commitment to $100 million, comes as Ottawa condemns what it calls “inflammatory rhetoric” from Israeli government officials over the forced displacement of those living in the besieged territory.

“Throughout this conflict, we have focused our decisions on the lives of innocent civilians,” International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said on Tuesday.

“This is a demonstration of Canada’s commitment.”

Most of the new funding will go to the World Food Program, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs.

About $5 million was set aside for Canadian non-governmental organizations.

WATCH | ‘A pause is a pause,’ minister says of Canada’s hold on new funding for UN agency

Minister says new Canadian funding on hold for UN relief agency in Gaza

Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of International Development, said new funding had been suspended for the United Nations organization supporting the people of Gaza after allegations that some employees were involved in deadly Hamas attacks on Israel in October last.

Last week, Canada suspended “additional funding” to a United Nations agency that supports Palestinians in Gaza and employs about 13,000 people there.

The decision followed allegations that some staff members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) played a role in the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7.

That day, militants killed around 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage, provoking a massive military response from Israel in Gaza. It is estimated that around 100 hostages are still alive and held there.

The Hamas-controlled territory’s Health Ministry says more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, including militants.

When the agency’s director fired nine staff members suspected of involvement in the Hamas attack, an international outcry immediately erupted. The UN condemned what it called “alleged heinous acts” and the United States suspended its own funding.

An Israeli document detailing the allegations was obtained Monday by The Associated Press. Seven UNRWA employees broke into Israel, one participated in a kidnapping and another helped steal a soldier’s body. Three other people are also accused of participating in the attacks.

Ten were listed as having ties to Hamas while one was linked to the Islamic Jihad militant group, AP reported. Two of the 12 people were killed, according to the document. The UN previously said one of them was still being identified.

The allegations could not be independently confirmed.

Hussen would not say whether the $40 million announced Tuesday was money that would have gone to UNRWA. He did not respond to questions about the last time Canada provided funding to the agency.

In the past, “money intended for Gaza was distributed through UNRWA and they used it to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid,” he explained. Long-term support for the agency will be affected by the pause, Hussen added.

UNRWA said it would be forced to halt operations by the end of February if funding was not restored. Since the start of the war, most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have depended on the agency’s programs for basic survival.

WATCH | Why major donors are appealing to the UN humanitarian agency for Gaza

Why major donors are appealing to the UN humanitarian agency for Gaza

Several countries, including the United States and Canada, have indefinitely suspended aid to UNRWA over allegations by Israel that 12 staff members of the humanitarian agency were involved in the attack carried out by the Hamas in Israel on October 7. Andrew Chang analyzes the allegations and what the funding pause means for Palestinians in Gaza.

Liberal MP Salma Zahid said her government’s policy amounted to “collective punishment” of Palestinians and that it was “unacceptable to tarnish the entire organization” over allegations involving some of its members. employees.

“It is unacceptable to withhold humanitarian funding in the midst of a crisis to the only organization capable of effectively providing humanitarian assistance to those in need,” she said on social media.

A coalition of 20 humanitarian groups, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Save the Children, also called for funding to be restored, saying UNRWA’s delivery of humanitarian aid cannot be replaced.

“Canada will continue to work with (UNRWA) and other donors to support the investigation into the serious and deeply concerning allegations, while maintaining our commitment to helping the most vulnerable Palestinian civilians in the region,” said Global Affairs in a statement.

The statement also calls for a humanitarian ceasefire to allow more aid to enter the Gaza Strip and reiterates Canada’s call for a two-state solution in the region.

WATCH | UN agency must restore trust following ‘shocking’ allegations, analyst says

UN agency must restore trust following ‘shocking’ allegations, analyst says

Canada and the United States are among countries that have suspended funding to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) after Israeli authorities claimed several agency staff were involved in the attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel on October 7. U.N. officials now have work to do to restore donor confidence, says Michael Bociurkiw, a Canadian global affairs analyst and former UNICEF spokesperson for the West Bank and Gaza.

In a social media post Tuesday, the ministry followed the United States, the United Kingdom and France in expressing Canada’s concern over calls to expel Palestinians from the Gaza Strip so that Israelis can settle there.

“Canada rejects any proposal calling for the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and the establishment of additional settlements,” he said.

“Such inflammatory rhetoric undermines the prospects for lasting peace.”

In Jerusalem on Sunday, far-right lawmakers from Israel’s coalition government took part in a conference calling for the renewal of Jewish settlements in Gaza.

Israel evacuated its settlements in 2005, ending 38 years of occupation and withdrawing its troops.

At the conference, the crowd chanted “Death to terrorists” as far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir took the stage and said it was “time to encourage” emigration of Palestinians from Gaza.

Canada and its peers have said they will oppose any attempt to expel Palestinians from Gaza, and the international community overwhelmingly considers Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said such views do not reflect official policy and that he has no plans to resettle Gaza, but he has released few details about his post-war vision for the territory.

Last week, the International Court of Justice issued a preliminary ruling on South Africa’s genocide allegations against Israel.

Canada has been much vaguer than many of its allies in its response to the case, saying it supports the court but may not support the premises of South Africa’s argument.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s statement after the ruling did not specify whether Ottawa wanted Israel to respect six interim orders, which include preserving evidence in case genocide is later discovered and suppressing statements that may to incite genocide.

Although the Liberal government has not explicitly stated that it believes Israel must comply with the court’s rulings, Justice Minister Arif Virani suggested as much on Tuesday.

“I stand by what we have been saying all along as a government, which is that we believe in the ICJ,” Virani told reporters on Parliament Hill.

“You heard the Prime Minister and Minister Joly talk about the fact that when we support this institution, we must respect the decisions that are made.”

The offices of Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not immediately respond when asked whether Virani accurately represented their views.

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