Brussels [Belgium], February 13: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) director Philippe Lazzarini on Monday again rebuffed calls for his resignation over his agency's alleged links to Hamas.
"I have no intention to resign," Lazzarini said after an informal meeting with EU development ministers at the Egmont palace to discuss the Hamas allegations and his agency's future funding.
The main UN aid agency for Palestinians in Gaza is under heavy scrutiny after the Israeli military said it discovered a Hamas command tunnel running under UNRWA's headquarters. Israel has also previously accused about a dozen employees of being involved in the October 7 attacks led by Hamas.
The UN agency fired the UNRWA staff members in response and launched an investigation. Updating EU development ministers on the inquiry, Lazzarini called on Israel to share any information about the allegations with the team investigating the UN agency.
Several major Western donors to UNRWA, including the United States and Germany, temporarily suspended payments to the Gaza relief agency over the allegations.
The European Commission also announced a review of its funding and that payments would be stopped until the end of February. An audit of the UN agency led by EU-appointed experts would also be carried out.
According to Lazzarini, the $82mn in commission funding, expected from the beginning of March is "absolutely critical" for the UN agency's cashflow.
From March, cashflow will be negative, Lazzarini said and UNRWA needs $60mn per month just to cover its 30,000 staff across the region. From April, cashflow "will be significantly negative," he stressed.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell issued a strong defence of the Gaza relief agency ahead of the meeting.
Lazzarini faced demands to resign after Israel published their charges against UNRWA employees involved in the October 7 attacks. Further demands from the Israeli government followed after the discovery of the Hamas command tunnel.
The tunnel was 700 metres long, 18 metres deep and served as an important facility for Hamas' military intelligence service, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday evening. The IDF also said there were indications that the premises of the UNRWA headquarters were used by Hamas and that it found large quantities of weapons and explosives.
Source: Qatar Tribune