The European Commission said on Monday it will “review” its support to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, following allegations several of its staff members were involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel.
The EU executive said in a statement it will “determine upcoming funding decisions for UNRWA in light of the very serious allegations” made in relation to the UN agency’s staff.
The Commission also calls for a probe into all UNRWA staff as soon as possible to “confirm that they did not participate in the attacks.”
“We are asking first of all for the organisation to carry out the investigation which it has itself announced, and secondly we are asking them to agree to an audit carried out by independent experts that would be selected by the Commission,” the Commission’s chief spokesperson Eric Mamer said.
“We expect UNRWA to allow this independent to take place,” he added.
It comes after several UNRWA staff members were alleged to have been involved in Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel, which left more than 1,200 Israelis dead and provoked a war in Gaza that has claimed the lives of more than 26,000 Palestinians.
According to a statement by the US Department of State, the allegations relate to twelve UNRWA employees.
One staff member faces accusations of kidnapping a woman, while another is alleged to have taken part in an attack on a kibbutz that left 97 people dead, according to the New York Times.
Neighbourhood commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said on social media platform X there would be “no business as usual” following the allegations, and that UNRWA would be asked to audit its control systems and review its protection mechanisms for EU funding.
Seven EU member states – including France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands – have already announced they will halt payments to UNRWA pending investigations.
The UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres has pleaded on these countries to reverse their decisions to ensure life-saving aid continues to reach the civilian population in the besieged Gaza strip.
Spain, Ireland and Luxembourg have announced it will continue to support the agency to avoid endangering its critical work.
The EU is the largest donor of humanitarian and development assistance to Gaza, and has quadrupled its payments of humanitarian aid to over €100 million since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October.
Much of this funding is channelled through UNRWA, which since the outbreak of the war has played a leading role in providing relief to Gazans.
For 2021 to 2023, the EU’s contribution to UNRWA’s programme budget amounted to €281 million.
The EU executive says no additional funding to UNRWA is foreseen until the end of February, and that the matter will be reviewed “in light of the outcome of the investigations announced by the UN.”
It also reaffirmed that its humanitarian aid will continue “unabated” through partner organisations.
The Commission temporarily paused its development aid to the Palestinian territories following Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel, as it conducted an audit to ensure no EU cash had inadvertently reached the hands of terrorist organisations.
That review found no diversion of funds to terrorist groups, allowing development aid to flow again.
But the executive now calls on UNRWA to allow “EU-appointed independent external experts” to audit the agency to reinforce control systems designed to prevent staff from taking part in terrorist activities.