Disbanding the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, would hasten famine in the Gaza Strip and condemn an ​​entire generation of children to “despair”, fueling “endless cycles of violence”, its head warned on Wednesday.

The agency, which has more than 30,000 employees in the region (in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria), has been accused by Israel of employing “more than 400 terrorists” in Gaza. Twelve of its employees are alleged, according to the Israeli authorities, to have been directly involved in the unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israeli territory on October 7, which resulted in the loss of the lives of some 1,170 people, the majority of them civilians, according to an account by the French Agency based on official Israeli data.

Those accusations resulted in the suspension of funding for the agency by countries that are among its main donors — though some have since restored it.

Nevertheless, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, created by the UN General Assembly in 1949, remains “the backbone of humanitarian operations” in the Gaza Strip, he reiterated on Wednesday. before the Security Council, the head of it, Philip Lazzarini, denouncing the “insidious” campaign aimed at ending the work he is doing.

“Dismantling UNRWA would have long-lasting consequences,” he warned.

“In the short term, it would worsen the humanitarian crisis and accelerate the onset of famine” in the Gaza Strip, he explained.

Famine is already threatening the north of the tiny Palestinian enclave, where nearly 34,000 people, most of them women and children, have been killed since Israel’s large-scale military operation began to “wipe out” Hamas, according to the Palestinian Islamist movement’s health ministry. .

“In the long term, it will jeopardize the transition to a ceasefire and the ‘next day’, depriving the injured population of desperately needed services,” insisted the head of the agency, which runs schools and hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

“It will make the enormous task of getting almost half a million hard-pressed girls and boys back to school almost impossible. If we don’t provide education, an entire generation will be condemned to despair — fueling anger, hostility and endless cycles of violence.”

At the same time, he honored the 178 UNRWA workers who have been killed so far in the Gaza Strip, observing, together with the representatives of the member states of the Security Council, a minute’s silence for the people who worked in the field of humanitarian aid and paid the heaviest price after this war broke out.

Following Israel’s allegations, the UN immediately expelled the officials accused and launched an internal investigation, which remains ongoing.

At the same time, Secretary General Antonio Guterres commissioned an independent group chaired by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna with a mission to evaluate UNRWA and its “neutrality”.

For his part, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, argued that “one of the main goals of UNRWA is to brainwash children, to instill in them the idea that they will be able to destroy Israel by returning them”, while stating that his country has been “flooded by millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees”. He added that “it is time to end the funding of UNRWA”, assuring that NGOs and other UN agencies can replace it.

Ms. Colonna is expected to deliver her final report on the agency on Monday.