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EU will send money to Gaza’s main aid provider after UN agency agrees to audit

BRUSSELS — The European Union said Friday that it will pay 50 million euros ($54 million) to the main provider of aid in Gaza next week after the cash-strapped U.N. agency agreed to allow EU-appointed experts to audit the way it screens staff to identify extremists.

The agency is the main supplier of food, water and shelter in Gaza, but it is also on the brink of financial collapse.

Israel launched its air, sea and ground offensive in Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack into Israel, in which terrorists killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 others.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,228. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figure.

The UNRWA agency is reeling from allegations that 12 of its 13,000 Gaza staff members participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel. The agency fired the employees, but more than a dozen countries suspended funding worth about $450 million, almost half its budget for 2024.

The European Commission had been due to disburse 82 million euros ($89 million) to UNRWA on Feb. 29, but wanted the agency to accept its terms for an audit. The EU’s powerful executive branch is the third biggest donor to UNRWA after the United States and Germany.

The commission said the agency has now “indicated that it stands ready to ensure that a review of its staff is carried out to confirm they did not participate in the attacks and that further controls are put in place to mitigate such risks in the future.”

The commission said the funds will be dispatched next week once UNRWA has confirmed in writing that it accepts the EU’s conditions. Two further tranches worth 16 million euros ($17.3 million) each will be given to UNRWA as it complies with their agreement.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini welcomed the EU’s announcement and said that the commitment to provide money next week “comes at a critical time.”

“The full disbursement of the EU contribution is key to the agency’s ability to maintain its operations in a very volatile area,” he tweeted.

Two U.N. investigations into Israel’s allegations against the agency are already underway.

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