Labour vows to back UN refugee agency whose staff Israel accused of being involved in October 7 Hamas attack

28 April 2024, 08:40 | Updated: 28 April 2024, 10:16

Labour's Wes Streeting has vowed to back UNRWA
Labour's Wes Streeting has vowed to back UNRWA. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Kit Heren

Labour has promised to support the UN refugee agency in Gaza despite claims several members of staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

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Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting told LBC's Matthew Wright that the UK has a responsibility to help get aid into Gaza, and should support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

UNRWA is the UN agency on the ground and the UK should be supporting UNRWA," Mr Streeting said.

"This is the UN Refugee Agency," he added. "We've got famine in erupting in Gaza and not as a result of natural disaster or catastrophe as a result of this terrible war and conflict.

"We have a responsibility the international community to do whatever we can to get aid into Gaza."

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Israel has claimed that 12 members of UNRWA staff were involved in helping with Hamas' October 7 attacks on Israel.

The claims, made in January, led to several countries including the UK pausing aid to UNRWA. The UN launched its own internal investigation. Of the 12 accused, nine have been fired, two are dead and one has gone missing.

The UN has since ended one investigation and suspended four more for lack of evidence. Investigations into the other claims are ongoing.

Most countries have resumed funding to UNRWA, but several including the US and UK have not.

Air Vice Marshal Sean Bell, formerly of the RAF, told Matthew on Sunday that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza "has been abated a little bit because Israel's managed to let through a little more aid".

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center (UNRWA) in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, before the current war
Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center (UNRWA) in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, before the current war. Picture: Alamy

But he added that "500 trucks a day was what was required, the maximum is getting through is less than 50% of that."

He said that the US' aid pier should be functional in two weeks "and that should potentially offer up to 2 million meals a day."

It comes as Hamas said on Saturday it was reviewing a new Israeli proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza, as Egypt intensified efforts to broker a deal to end the months-long war and stave off a possible Israeli ground offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Meanwhile British boots could be put on the ground in Gaza as part of international efforts to deliver vital aid to the war-torn enclave by sea.

The UK government is considering deploying troops to land humanitarian supplies from a temporary pier currently being built by the US military, the BBC reported on Saturday, citing unnamed Whitehall sources.

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