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Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

Italy Suspends UNRWA Funding Amid Controversy

Israel Katz’s call for swift measures against the leadership of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has not gone unanswered. After the IDF uncovered evidence linking a dozen agency employees to the October 7 terrorist attack, the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister addressed the international community, claiming that UNRWA’s perpetuation of the refugee crisis, obstruction of peace, and its alleged role as the civil arm of Hamas necessitate a robust response. He emphasized that UNRWA must face consequences for its actions, adding that it is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. In a welcomed development, Italy has joined the countries suspending funding to the UN agency. Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani issued a statement on his official “X” account. “The Italian government suspended funding for UNRWA after the atrocious attack by Hamas against Israel on October 7,” Tajani stated, reflecting a notable shift in the country’s international posture.

This move follows earlier decisions made by the United States and Canada, which announced their suspension of funding to UNRWA “due to the identified links of 12 agency employees with the terrorist attack against Israel.”

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, has pledged immediate termination of contracts implicated in the controversy and commits to a prompt, impartial investigation to safeguard the agency’s humanitarian mission. With a workforce exceeding 30,000, UNRWA continues to play a central role in Gaza’s landscape and administration of the Strip.

In the wake of Israel’s revelation proving the involvement of several UNRWA employees to the terrorist attacks on October 7, the UN agency now faces a storm of controversy.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has affirmed that the United Nations will conduct an “independent, urgent, and comprehensive review” of UNRWA. Expressing dismay at the unfolding situation, Guterres has mandated Lazzarini to expedite an inquiry. Any UNRWA staff proven to have participated or endorsed the terrorist actions of October 7 or engaged in other criminal activities “faces immediate termination and potential referral for criminal prosecution,” as conveyed by Dujarric.

As the international community grapples with the fallout from UNRWA’s entanglement, the agency’s future hangs in the balance—a reminder that even in the realm of humanitarian efforts, accountability shapes destinies.

About the Author
Giuseppe Levi Pezzulli ("Bepi") is a Solicitor specialised in International financial law and a foreign policy scholar. His research interest is economic statecraft. In 2018, he published "An alternative view of Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), which investigates the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. In 2023, "Brave bucks" (Armando Publishing House), which highlights the role of private capital in the industrial policy mix. Formerly an Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; is a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC; and a Middle East analyst for Longitude magazine. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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