India ‘deeply concerned’ over Israel’s allegations of October 7 terror links to UNRWA empl...

India ‘deeply concerned’ over Israel’s allegations of October 7 terror links to UNRWA employees

MEA says India is an important development partner, does not indicate whether it will follow U.S., other western countries on pausing funding to agency

India on Thursday expressed “deep concern” over Israel’s allegations that dozens of employees of the U.N.-led organisation for Palestinians, UN Relief and Works Welfare Agency (UNRWA), were involved or linked to Hamas and other terror groups involved in the October 7 terror attacks on Israel. Israel’s allegations, which were made last Friday have led to a pause in funding for the agency that is already grappling with Israel’s bombing of Gaza, as well as the deaths of at least 101 of its own staffers in the first two months of the bombardment. 

Apart from the United States, countries that announced a pause in UNRWA funding this week included Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Japan, Austria and Romania. However, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Spain are among those which have not so far done so. India is a regular donor, with an annual pledge of $5 million, which was increased in 2020. Most recently, India released a tranche of $2.5 million to the agency in December 2023. 

“We are deeply concerned about allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 terror attacks. We also welcome the investigations into the allegations which the UN has announced,” said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal on Thursday. However, he did not comment on whether New Delhi was reconsidering its funding of the UN Agency as a result of the allegations.

The statement by the MEA followed days after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Katz and discussed a number of issues pertaining to the Israel-Hamas conflict. “Discussed the ongoing situation in West Asia. Spoke about India’s views, assessments and interests in that regard. Agreed to stay in touch,” Mr. Jaishankar had posted on social media after the conversation on Monday. The MEA and the Israeli Embassy in Delhi did not respond to a question about whether the two Ministers had also discussed the Israeli allegations against UNRWA.

Zero tolerance to terrorism

“India is an important development partner of Palestine. We have been extending assistance to them both bilaterally and through multilateral institutions. At the same time, we have a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism,” Mr. Jaiswal said, in response to a question from The Hindu on where India stands on the issue. He said India had “taken note” of last week’s verdict of the International Court of Justice on provisional measures to prevent genocide by Israel in Gaza, where the court, that includes an Indian judge, criticised Israel’s actions and statements by its leaders but didn’t call for an immediate ceasefire.

The accusations contained in a six-page “dossier” released to many countries and international news organisations prepared by Israeli security agencies alleged that 190 UNRWA employees had also helped Hamas and other militant organisations, although it only identified 11 of the employees with names and photographs, according to reports. UNRWA Commissioner General Phillippe Lazzarini said the funding pause was unfair as the accusations are being investigated by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), and contracts of those identified, who represented only a “small group” out of 13,000 UNRWA employees, had been terminated.

“I urge countries which have suspended their funding to reconsider their decisions before UNRWA is forced to suspend its humanitarian response. The lives of people in Gaza depend on this support and so does regional stability,” Mr. Lazzarini said in a statement this week. READ COMMENTS 1READ LATERPRINT

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