The Israeli-USA campaign to demonize, disable, defund, restrict and transfer UNRWA’s responsibilities are ongoing as a component of the Genocidal War with the aim of further displacing Palestinians, liquidating the issue of the 9.3 million Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons and dismantling UNRWA.
Not only were Palestinian civilians forced to evacuate the north, but so was UNRWA and a significant portion of its 13,000 staff members. UNRWA is prevented from providing aid and assistance to more than 160,000 Palestinians who remained in the north and Gaza City. The international community, rather than accept Israel’s forced evacuation (which contradicts international humanitarian law), should have taken measures to enable UNRWA to remain in the north in safety and security and continue its operations. In other words, not only did the international community fail to protect Palestinian civilians, it also failed to protect UNRWA and other international agencies providing aid and services in the Gaza Strip.
To date, more than 70 UNRWA staff members have been killed. Regardless of their nationality, Palestinian staff should be afforded the same protection as international staff. Palestinian lives are not less important than international staff’s lives. In this case, Israel should be held twice as accountable: for killing Palestinian civilians and UN staff.
In addition, 44 facilities have been damaged, 13 of UNRWA’s hospitals are non-operational. Jabalia refugee camp was bombed two days in a row, resulting in hundreds of deaths and on 2 November, an UNRWA school was targeted. This creates a situation that debilitates UNRWA’s capacity to function and fulfill its mandate.
The smear campaigns against UNRWA include demonizing the Agency and its staff and calling into question its legitimacy and credibility which also impacts its ability to function. Certain states are further conditioning funds or considering defunding the Agency and this would also result in undermining UNRWA.
All these actions constitute an attack on UNRWA and Palestinian refugees, an attack designed to further Israel’s main goal: the forcible displacement of Palestinians (and UNRWA) out of the Gaza Strip. The evacuation order demanding Palestinians to go to the south, was not an attempt to protect civilians from bombing but to move them into a position where their forcible displacement into Egypt would be inevitable.
The ongoing refusal by powerful colonial states, especially the United States, for a ceasefire and unconditional aid further supports the goal of Palestinian displacement: these states are not only engaging in genocide but also are complicit in forcible transfer. Instead of demanding a ceasefire and unconditional aid, to the stop the main reason why Palestinians need to flee, colonial westerns states are instead villainizing the Egyptian government for not opening the border.
UNRWA, its staff, and its facilities fall under the jurisdiction of the United Nations (UN). Therefore, BADIL and the Global Palestinian Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Network (GPRN), call on the international community, particularly, the UN and its members states to take practical measures to prevent further Palestinian displacement by:
- Imposing an immediate ceasefire, and ensuring the provision of unconditional humanitarian aid;
- Ensure that UNRWA, as the capable, competent and leading UN agency in the Gaza Strip, is the agency that leads and manages the humanitarian operations there;
- Ensure that its staff and facilities are protected and have all the means available to provide aid and services to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
- Reassume its operations in the north of the Gaza Strip immediately.
- Hold Israel accountable for the death of UN staff, and the destruction of UN facilities.