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    HomeAidIndependent review group on UNRWA may request Gaza visit

    Independent review group on UNRWA may request Gaza visit

    Appointed by the Secretary-General in early February following Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA employees were involved in the Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel in October, the group also aims to meet Palestinian Authority officials and may request a visit to Gaza, said its chair, former French former minister Catherine Colonna, who spoke outside the Security Council after meeting with the UN Secretary-General.

    My goal is to deliver a report that is rigorous and evidence based…and to do our best so we can help UNRWA deliver under the mandate given [to it] by the General Assembly,” she said.

    The group began its work on 13 February and expects to have an interim report by late March, Ms. Colonna said, noting that its role includes clarifying the process in place at the UN agency to ensure neutrality and how it is implemented.

    Operating since 1949, UNRWA now serves almost six million Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and in besieged Gaza, where many Palestinians urgently depend on the agency for assistance amid Israel’s continued military offensive in response to the October attacks.

    The ongoing war in Gaza has killed almost 30,000 Palestinians, displaced more than one million and has restricted humanitarian aid from entering the enclave, which now faces severe hunger, according to a joint appeal from UN agency chiefs issued on Thursday morning.

    Neutrality ‘must be respected’

    The goal of this “very sensitive” mission is “to find the ways and means to see that UNRWA does everything it can to ensure neutrality, which is one of the basic principles of the agency and a principle that’s difficult to respect in the circumstances – but must be respected”, Ms. Colonna said.

    She said the group intends to issue recommendations in its final report, which is expected on 20 April.

    Ms. Colonna is working with a team from three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden; Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway; and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

    They are tasked with assessing how its mechanisms and procedures have, or have not, been implemented in practice and whether every practicable effort has been made to apply them to their full potential, considering the particular operational, political and security environment in which the agency works.

    A final report will be made public.

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