UN leader says Palestinian aid agency cannot be replaced amid scrutiny

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Thursday there is no organization that could effectively replace the U.N.’s Palestinian aid agency, known as UNRWA.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, is under scrutiny after Israel alleged that 12 of its employees were involved in Hamas’s attack on Israel. The U.S., UNRWA’s largest donor, has frozen aid to the group.

“No other organization has a meaningful presence inside Gaza — and nothing compared with this situation. So there is no other organization that would be able now to replace” it, Guterres said Thursday, according to French newswire Agence France-Presse.

Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom also have cut payments to UNRWA amid the controversy.

Guterres argued funding should be reinstated to prevent a further humanitarian catastrophe, while arguing it provided effective aid at a low cost to member nations.

“The costs with UNRWA are much lower than the costs with other agencies for historical reasons,” Guterres said. “The salaries paid by UNRWA are one-third of the salaries paid by UNICEF or WFP or other U.N. organizations.” 

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to demand the resignation of Guterres and the UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

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