Australia to Resume Funding to UN’s Main Palestinian Relief Agency

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong speaks during the Maritime Cooperation Forum of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, in Melbourne, Australia March 4, 2024.

SYDNEY, March 15 (Reuters) – Australia will resume funding to the United Nations’ main Palestinian relief agency, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Friday, almost two months after pausing ties over allegations that some of the agency’s employees participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Australia had consulted with UNRWA and other donors and was satisfied the aid agency was not a terror organization, Wong said. New and additional safeguards would protect aid money, and A$6 million ($3.9 million) in paused funding would be released immediately, she said.

“We have children and families that are starving and we have a capacity along with the international community to assist them,” Wong said at a news conference.

“We know that UNRWA is central and vital to delivering that assistance.”

Australia along with more than a dozen countries, suspended funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in January after Israel accused 12 of the agency’s 13,000 employees in Gaza of participating in the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

The U.N. has launched an investigation into the allegations, and UNRWA fired some staff after Israel provided the agency with information on the allegations.

Sweden, Canada and the European Union have resumed funding to some degree. The organization’s head said last week he cautiously optimistic other donors would resume funding soon.

Wong also announced a further A$4 million in funding for UNICEF and A$2 million for a separate UN facility for Gaza. Australia will also give Jordan and the United Arab Emirates 140 parachutes to use for air drops of aid.

Asked about reports of several Palestinians left stranded in transit after Australia canceled temporary visas, Wong said all applicants were subject to security checks and referred the question to the Minister for Home Affairs.

($1 = 1.5246 Australian dollars)