Israeli accusations against UNRWA distraction from ongoing onslaught in Gaza: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday urged states to continue funding the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), calling Israeli allegations against the UN body a "distraction" from the ongoing aggression in Gaza.

“The discussion right now is much of a distraction of what is going on every day, every hour, every minute in Gaza,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a UN press briefing in Geneva.

“It’s a distraction from close to 27,000 deaths as of now, out of which 70% are women and children.”

Lindmeier was referring to recent allegations by Tel Aviv that some of UNRWA’s staff were involved in the cross-border attack on Israel by Palestinian group Hamas on Oct. 7.

Arguing that while these claims should be investigated, he stated they currently serve as a “distraction” from measures preventing an entire nation’s access to food, water, shelter and electricity.

They also distract from the “continuous shelling” of Palestinians in Gaza, even in designated safe areas, as well as from attacks on “shelters, schools, hospitals”, he added.

“It’s a distraction. And as important as this discussion (on allegations) is, let’s not forget what the real issues are on the ground,” he urged.

At least 12 countries — Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, Finland, Australia, UK, Netherlands, US, France, Austria, and Japan — have suspended funding for UNRWA, which was established in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

UNRWA announced it terminated contracts with several employees following the Israeli allegations.

Israel launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip following a cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct. 7, killing at least 26,637 Palestinians and injuring 65,387. Nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

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