Israel-Hamas war, US airstrikes in Middle East, Gaza crisis

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks on January 23 at UN Headquarters.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks on January 23 at UN Headquarters. Peter K. Afriyie/AP

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed a group to conduct an independent review of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the main UN agency in Gaza that provides humanitarian assistance for Palestinians.

The independent external review will begin on February 14 and will be conducted alongside a current investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) into Israel’s allegations that UNRWA personnel were involved in Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks.

France’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, will lead the review and work with three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The review group will “assess whether the Agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made,” the secretary general said in a statement, adding Israeli cooperation will be critical to the investigation’s success.

UNRWA fired several employees in wake of the allegations, and its top donor, the United States, plus a growing number of countries have paused funding to the organization as the humanitarian disaster spirals in the besieged Palestinian enclave. The agency has warned that it will “most likely” have to suspend its relief work by the end of February due to the pause of funding, and that it will worsen the crisis in Gaza and among Palestinian refugees it serves in the larger region beyond Gaza borders.

The European Union’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said in a blog post on Sunday that defunding the UNRWA “would be both disproportionate and dangerous,” adding that “no other” UN agency could replace it as the organization’s “infrastructure, logistics and personnel” are central to the “entire aid operation inside Gaza.”

CNN’s Amy Cassidy in London and Mostafa Salem contributed reporting to this post.

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