Crescent Kashmir

Dismantling UNRWA a ‘disaster’ for Gaza: chief

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GENEVA: Dismantling the UN agency for Palestinian refugees would be a disaster, its chief said Tuesday, as pressure rose after Israel said it had found a Hamas tunnel beneath its Gaza headquarters.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini called for an independent investigation once the conflict is over, looking into the tunnel allegations and the destruction of UN premises in the Gaza Strip.

“Maybe after this cataclysm which has hit the region in Gaza, it might be time now to genuinely find a political solution, and it would be a disaster that, just before it, we get rid of… UNRWA,” Lazzarini told reporters.

UNRWA is the main aid organisation in the Gaza Strip, which is now gripped by a serious humanitarian crisis due to the war.

Earlier, Israel’s foreign minister called Saturday for Lazzarini, who said the Rafah situation was “deeply concerning”, with people “anxious and in fear” of a major military assault “in the middle of a sea of displaced people”, to quit.

“There is absolutely no safe place in Rafah any more,” Lazzarini said, adding that more than 150 UNRWA installations have been hit during the past four months.

As for calls for UNRWA to be dismantled, Lazzarini said they were “short-sighted” and “weakening our collective ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip.

“If we want to give a chance to any future transition to succeed we need also to make sure that the international community has the tools — and one of these tools is UNRWA,” he said.

“We have been a temporary agency which unfortunately has lasted for 75 years. But 75 years is because there hasn’t been any political solution.”

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2024

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