People walk past the damaged Gaza City headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on February 15, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Several countries -- including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan -- have suspended funding to the UNRWA agency in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff members participated in the October 7 attack by Hamas militants. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

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A coalition of Finnish Members of Parliament has issued a strong appeal to the government, urging the immediate continuation of financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This call comes in response to the cessation of funding amidst the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where UNRWA stands as a critical lifeline for millions.

The MPs argue that the decision to halt funding was made on insufficient grounds, especially given the dire situation facing civilians in Gaza. UNRWA, as the sole humanitarian organization capable of providing widespread assistance in the region, has announced that its current financial resources are insufficient to meet all aid requirements even until the end of February. Gaza is facing a catastrophic hunger crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people crammed into inadequate shelters and hospitals running out of clean water and food. Humanitarian operations are on the brink of collapse, with aid being severely restricted across borders.

With 28,000 employees, of whom 13,000 work in Gaza, UNRWA has been a significant source of employment and support in the region. Despite accusations from the Israeli government against 12 UNRWA workers for involvement in a Hamas attack on October 7, immediate actions have been taken against the accused individuals, who no longer work for UNRWA. The United Nations and UNRWA have initiated an independent investigation into the incident. UNRWA has consistently provided information on all its employees to Israel, with no further clarifications or concerns raised.

The MPs highlight the unreasonableness of cutting off support from an organization that employs tens of thousands and serves over two million vulnerable Palestinians. They point to Norway and Denmark as examples of countries that have chosen not to end their funding. The appeal calls on the Finnish government to do everything in its power to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza, to demand the release of hostages, to achieve an immediate ceasefire, and to influence Israel to comply with the binding interim decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which mandates that Israel must do everything possible to prevent genocide.

The plea is signed by a broad spectrum of Finnish MPs, including Inka Hopsu (Green), chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Network; Veronika Honkasalo (Left Alliance) and Pinja Perholehto (Social Democratic), vice-chairs of the network; and numerous members across the political spectrum, demonstrating a united front in support of UNRWA and the Palestinian people in need.

HT

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