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Swiss earmark 10 million francs for UNRWA in Gaza

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Swiss earmark 10 million francs for UNRWA in Gaza
Israeli soldiers stand guard in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip during an operation of humanitarian aid delivered to the Palestinian territory. Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP

Switzerland is proposing to give $11 million to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, specifically for tackling the humanitarian crisis in Gaza triggered by the war between Israel and Hamas.

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The government's proposal, announced Wednesday after weeks of procrastination, represents half of the amount which was initially set to be paid to the UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in 2024.

"Switzerland's 10 million Swiss francs contribution to UNRWA will be restricted to Gaza and will cover the most pressing basic needs, such as food, water, shelter, basic healthcare and logistics," a government statement said.

Switzerland "is fully aware of the critical nature of this situation and recognises the urgent need for action".

UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of being involved in the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel.

This led many donor nations, including the United States and Switzerland, to abruptly suspend funding to the agency, threatening its efforts to deliver desperately-needed aid in Gaza, where the UN has warned of an impending famine.

An independent review group of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found some "neutrality-related issues" but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its chief allegations.

In making its decision, the Swiss government said it "drew on the analysis of the Colonna report and coordination with other donors".

The government's decision must still be submitted to parliament's foreign affairs committees for consultation.

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On April 30th, the Swiss head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, said that of the $450 million in funding that had been frozen by donors, $267 million was still suspended, the bulk of it by Washington.

Gaza's bloodiest-ever war began following Hamas's unprecedented October 7th attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has conducted a retaliatory offensive that has killed more than 34,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

Switzerland "reiterates its call for a humanitarian ceasefire, unhindered access for emergency aid to Gaza, compliance with international humanitarian law, and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages," the government said.

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