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UK urged to pause UNRWA funding after Israel claims staff were involved in 7 October attack

The UK should join the US and other allies in pausing support to the UN's relief agency in Gaza over claims members were involved in Hamas' attack on Israel, a Tory MP has said.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said on Friday it sacked "several" employees over accusations by Israel that 12 employees were involved in the 7 October attack.

In the wake of the allegations, the US paused additional funding for the relief agency "while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them".

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Late on Friday, former immigration minister Robert Jenrick said on X: "The UK should follow the US in pausing support to UNRWA whilst these serious allegations are investigated.

"It's an organisation staffed by many well meaning people, working in the most challenging circumstances, but whose leadership has fallen into a moral morass of complicity with Hamas, forever turning a blind eye to the terrorists."

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the decision to sack the staffers was taken "to protect the agency's ability to deliver humanitarian assistance".

"Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution," he added.

Speaking to the Axios news agency, a senior Israeli official said that the Shin Bet and the IDF provided information which alleged active participation of UNRWA staffers, along with the use of the agency's vehicles and facilities, on 7 October.

"This was strong and corroborated intelligence," the official told Axios.

"A lot of the intelligence is a result of interrogations of militants who were arrested during the 7 October attack."

UNRWA, established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, has repeatedly said throughout Israel's war on Hamas that its ability to provide humanitarian aid to people in Gaza is on the verge of collapse.

Authorities including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have previously accused the agency of fuelling anti-Israeli sentiment, which it denies.

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Canada, Australia and Italy pause funding

Meanwhile, Canada and Australia also paused additional funding to UNRWA on Saturday, with Canada's international development minister Ahmed Hussen saying he was "deeply troubled" by the claims.

He welcomed the call by UN chief Antonio Guterres for a "swift" investigation into the matter.

Australian foreign affairs minister Penny Wong called the allegations "abhorrent" and said Canberra would suspend the handing over of "recently announced funding".

Italian foreign affairs minister Antonio Tajani also announced in a post to X that Rome would pause any transfer of funds to the agency.

"Allied countries have recently made the same decision. We are committed to humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population [and] protecting Israel's security," he said.