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Japan joined a growing list of countries on Sunday to put a halt to providing funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees, citing concerns about allegations that staff members of the agency participated in the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel.

Also putting a stop to the funding temporarily are the U.S., Germany, U.K., Canada and at least five other countries.

Israel released evidence showing that a dozen of the organization’s employees in Gaza participated in the massacre of 1,200 Israeli citizens by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023.

“Against this backdrop, Japan is extremely concerned about the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff members in the terror attack on Israel on October 7 last year,” Foreign Press Secretary Kobayashi Maki from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said. “In response, Japan has decided to suspend additional funding to UNRWA for the time being while UNRWA conducts an investigation into the matter and considers measures to address the allegations.”

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Kobayashi said Japan has been “strongly urging” the UNRWA to investigate the matter in a prompt and complete way and take appropriate measures.

Specifically, Kobayashi said measures should include strengthening governance within UNRWA, so the agency can fulfill the role it is supposed to play.

“At the same time, Japan will continue to make persistent and active diplomatic efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and to calm down the situation as soon as possible by providing support to other international organizations,” Kobayashi added.

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UNRWA Gaza HQ

A man walks in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building as UNRWA personnel strike demanding a salary increase because of the high cost of living, in Gaza City, Gaza on January 30, 2023. (Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan announced it was suspending UNRWA funding on the same day that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called on member countries to resume funding for the agency, despite accusations from Israel that some of the group’s employees participated in the massacre last year.

Guterres said he understood the concerns leading to countries suspending funding to UNRWA, adding that he himself was horrified by the accusations. But he strongly appealed to those country’s governments to continue with funding for UNRWA’s operations.

“Of the 12 people implicated, nine were immediately identified and terminated by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini; one is confirmed dead, and the identity of the two others is being clarified,” he said. “Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.”

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António Guterres speaking

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations asked countries that placed temporary halts on providing funding for UNRWA to continue on Jan. 28, 2024.  (Kiara Worth /COP28 via Getty Images)

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan fired back at Guterres’ call for countries to renew their funding for UNRWA.

“The UN Secretary-General has proven once again that the security of the citizens of Israel is not really important for him,” Erdan said. “After years in which he ignored the evidence presented to him personally about UNRWA’s support and involvement in incitement and terrorism, and before he conducted a comprehensive investigation to locate all Hamas terrorists in UNRWA, he called to fund an organization that is deeply contaminated with terrorism.”

Erdan said every country that continues to fund the agency before a comprehensive investigation can be conducted should be aware that the money may be used for terrorism.

He also said the aid transferred to UNRWA could reach Hamas terrorists instead of the people who need it in Gaza.

“I call on all donor states to suspend their support and demand an in-depth investigation that will investigate the involvement of all UNRWA employees in terror,” the ambassador said.

Still, not all countries are on board. In a statement on Sunday, Norway’s minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, said his country would continue funding UNRWA.

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“Norway is a major donor to UNRWA. Currently, some countries have paused their aid to the Palestinian people through UNRWA in this situation,” he said. “Norway has decided to continue its funding. While I share the concern over the very serious allegations against some UNRWA staff, I urge other donors to reflect on the wider consequences of cutting funding to UNRWA in this time of extreme humanitarian distress. We should not collectively punish millions of people.

“The people of Gaza urgently need humanitarian assistance and must not pay the price for the actions of others,” Eide added.

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