As Gaza Faces Famine, Israel Cuts Ties with UNRWA and U.S. Halts Funding for Critical Aid Agency

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Despite a U.N.-backed report sounding the alarm on imminent famine in northern Gaza, Israeli authorities announced Sunday they will no longer approve the passage of any UNRWA food convoys into northern Gaza. “Our ability to adequately continue saving lives is really being obstructed,” says UNRWA spokesperson Tamara Alrifai. “What’s going to happen to UNRWA if we can no longer truly operate?” The decision came as President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion appropriations bill that strips funding to UNRWA for the next year. The U.S. first suspended aid to UNRWA in late January, when the Israeli government claimed 12 of the agency’s 30,000 employees were involved in Hamas’s attacks on October 7. The unsubstantiated allegation prompted top donors to cut funding to UNRWA, though many of them have resumed funding as the agency welcomes new donor countries and an unprecedented number of civil society donations. Seeing the U.S., the agency’s largest donor, “withhold funding … is a huge blow to us,” says Alrifai. “Stripping UNRWA of funding not only shrinks its ability to respond to the looming famine in Gaza, but also puts at risk the schools, the access of kids to proper education, the vaccines, the mother and child care — everything across the region.”

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