UK pauses funding for UN aid group over claims staff took part in Hamas attack on Israel

A UN truck in Rafah, southern Gaza (AFP via Getty Images)
A UN truck in Rafah, southern Gaza (AFP via Getty Images)

The UK has paused funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees following allegations that its members were involved in Hamas’ attack on Israel.

The Foreign Office has confirmed that it has temporarily suspended aid for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) while it reviews the claims.

UNRWA said on Friday that it had opened an investigation into several employees suspected of involvement in the October 7 attacks “in order to establish the truth without delay”. It also confirmed it had “immediately terminated” the workers' contracts.

The Foreign Office said in a statement: “The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK Government has repeatedly condemned.

“The UK is temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA whilst we review these concerning allegations.

“We remain committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza who desperately need it.”

The UK’s decision comes after the US, Italy, Canada and Australia also suspended additional funding for the UN aid agency.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had spoken to UN chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday to inform him of the decision.

Mr Blinken visited UNRWA's offices in Jordan just a month ago and praised its work in Gaza while lamenting the deaths of dozens of its employees in the conflict.

US Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said it has "temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them".

He said the allegations pertained to 12 employees, adding: “We welcome the decision to conduct an investigation and Secretary General Guterres' pledge to take decisive action should the allegations prove accurate.”

Israel claimed it had received "specific information" some of the agency's 13,000 workers had a role in Hamas' attack on Israel in October which left 1,200 dead.

Monitors also found social media posts in which teachers based in Gaza "openly celebrated" outrages which included a massacre at the Supernova desert music festival.