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The U.N. company that gives support to Palestinians has been a significant lifeline in the Gaza Strip for generations — and it was a degree of competition with Israel lengthy earlier than among the company’s staff had been accused of involvement in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault on Israel.

The allegation, made by Israel, is a critical blow to the status of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, generally called UNRWA. The declare was acted on by each the United Nations, which mentioned on Friday that it had fired the accused staff and was investigating, and the United States, which mentioned it was suspending some funding for the company.

Here’s a more in-depth have a look at the group and its work.

What does UNRWA do?

UNRWA supplies an array of social companies for folks registered as Palestinian refugees in the wars surrounding the formation of Israel, and for his or her descendants in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The company looms particularly giant in Gaza, the place many of the inhabitants of greater than two million individuals are registered as refugees. Gaza has been underneath a longstanding Israeli blockade, and Hamas — thought-about a terrorist group by a lot of the world — wields management. No nation’s authorities takes even partial accountability for governing the territory, and the Palestinian Authority, which exercises restricted powers in the West Bank, was successfully expelled from Gaza in a 2007 energy wrestle with Hamas.

UNRWA builds and operates colleges, medical clinics, shelters and playgrounds all through the territory. It supplies food, housing help and emergency loans and even oversees some rubbish assortment. It is among the largest employers in Gaza, with 13,000 staff, most of them Palestinian, a rarity in an enclave the place almost half of adults are unemployed.

“Essentially, for the last few decades we have been operating a parallel government in Gaza,” Hector Sharp, the pinnacle of the company’s authorized workplace, mentioned in an October interview.

What are the allegations in opposition to UNRWA?

It’s not totally clear.

U.N. and American officers referred to claims that some UNRWA staff could have been “involved in” the Oct. 7 assaults, however didn’t elaborate on that involvement or say whether or not it included any of the worst atrocities dedicated that day.

The State Department referred to 12 staff being accused and fired — UNRWA didn’t provide a quantity — however it’s unclear what sort of work they did or how senior they had been. It additionally stays to be seen whether or not investigations will yield extra such allegations.

What is UNRWA’s relationship with Israel?

Israel has lengthy accused UNRWA of working in collusion with Hamas, serving to it indoctrinate Gazans with anti-Israel propaganda, and turning a blind eye to Hamas militants firing rockets at Israel and working an enormous tunnel community in the territory.

Hamas oversees what little civilian public administration exists in Gaza, so folks and companies underneath its management inevitably work together with the company, however the extent and nature of that cooperation has been the topic of many competing claims.

Israel additionally objects to labeling these born outdoors of Israel as refugees.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has gone as far as responsible the company for perpetuating reasonably than assuaging the plight of Palestinians and has referred to as on the United Nations to disband it.

Israeli officers have lengthy charged that Arab nations “want the Palestinian refugee problem to remain unresolved, so that there’s a constant reminder of the Palestinian tragedy,” mentioned Ahron Bregman, a senior instructing fellow at King’s College London who specializes in the Arab-Israeli battle. “UNRWA, as the Israelis see it, is a tool to keep the Palestinian refugee problem unresolved.”

But some specialists say that regardless of the hostile public remarks, Israel, which occupied Gaza from 1967 to 2005, has wanted the company to supply stability there. “Behind the scenes Israel has often favored UNRWA’s work,” mentioned Anne Irfan, an skilled on Palestinian refugee rights at University College London.

Why was UNRWA arrange?

UNRWA was established in 1949 to help some 700,000 Palestinians who fled or had been expelled from Israel in the course of the wars surrounding its creation and had been prohibited by Israel from returning.

Many settled in refugee camps that the company helped create, which have since develop into built-up, principally impoverished city areas.

Palestinians are the one refugee group whose help shouldn’t be dealt with underneath the worldwide mandate of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNRWA is funded virtually totally by voluntary donations by U.N. member states, with the United States and European Union international locations offering many of the financing.

The company, which has mentioned it was in need of funds even earlier than the present struggle started, has appealed for a serious infusion of cash to deal with the extra want.

What has UNRWA’s function been throughout this struggle?

Since Israel started its bombing marketing campaign and floor invasion in retaliation for the Oct. 7 assault, UNRWA has taken major accountability for attempting to shelter Gazans displaced from their houses — now practically 90 % of the inhabitants.

The company has transformed its colleges, clinics and workplaces into emergency shelters which have develop into badly overcrowded, and has additionally arrange sprawling tent camps. It has additionally been closely concerned in distributing deliveries of badly wanted food, water and drugs.

It has additionally shared the struggling of individuals in Gaza, the place the health ministry says greater than 25,000 folks have been killed in the struggle. The company says that 152 of its staff are among the many lifeless and that 141 of its amenities have been broken or destroyed.

Megan Specia and Ben Hubbard contributed reporting.

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