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UN Chief announces independent panel to evaluate UNRWA agency in Gaza – Times of India

NEW DELHI: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced the establishment of an independent panel to assess UNRWA, the agency responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees. The move comes in response to mounting criticism and funding suspensions following accusations by Israel that 12 UNRWA staff members were involved in a Hamas attack on October 7, reported AFP.
Several countries, including the United States, Germany, Britain, and Sweden, have halted their funding to the agency amid the controversy. To address these concerns, the UN has appointed former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna to lead the independent panel. Colonna will collaborate with three European research organizations, namely the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.
The primary objective of the assessment is to determine whether UNRWA is maintaining neutrality and appropriately addressing allegations of serious breaches. The panel is expected to deliver an interim report to Secretary-General Guterres in late March, followed by a final report in late April. If necessary, the panel will also provide recommendations for enhancing and strengthening the agency’s mechanisms.
This independent assessment is separate from the internal investigation initiated by the United Nations last month in response to the initial accusations against the 12 UNRWA employees.
The attack on October 7, which was attributed to Hamas, resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,160 individuals, predominantly civilians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently alleged that the UN agency had been “totally infiltrated” by Hamas, the group that has governed Gaza since 2007. As a result, Israel launched a large-scale military operation with the aim of eliminating Hamas, leading to the deaths of at least 27,478 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry of the Hamas-ruled territory.

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