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This research briefing addresses frequently asked questions about UK aid to the Gaza Strip and West Bank and support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in the context of the conflict between Hamas and Israel from 7 October 2023.

The Commons Library research briefing, 2023/24 Israel-Hamas conflict: UK and international response provides a summary of events in the conflict, the UK and international response, negotiations on ceasefires and humanitarian pauses in fighting, and arrangements for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

In line with Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office practice when reporting past UK aid spending, this briefing primarily uses the term “West Bank and Gaza Strip” rather than The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

What is the humanitarian situation?

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) publishes daily updates on the humanitarian situation, including the level of humanitarian need, casualties, damage to infrastructure and humanitarian access (browse its homepage for ‘flash updates’ and ‘reported impact’). UN agencies report significant infrastructure damage, including to schools and hospitals, a shortage of medical staff, and an “imminent risk of famine”.

Aid is being sent via the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings. UNOCHA reports the average number of trucks that entered Gaza each day before 7 October was around 500. Since 7 October, the highest daily average (by week) was 173 from 24 to 30 November, during the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas. In December 2023, the UK Government backed a UN Security Council resolution which demanded an increase of aid, including fuel, into Gaza.

What aid has been committed since October?

For 2023/24, the UK has committed £87 million in aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (around US$109 million). This includes £60 million announced in October/November 2023 (US$75 million). A total of £16 million was provided to the UNRWA before funding was suspended in January (see next section). Additional commitments have also been announced by the United States (US$121 million) and the European Union (€103 million, around US$107 million). Germany, France, Canada and Japan (PDF) are among those to also pledge aid.

How does the UK monitor its spending?

The UK Government states no aid is provided to Hamas, who have governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, and who are designated a terrorist organisation by the UK Government and are subject to UK sanctions.

Due to “prioritisation exercises” in the UK aid budget, the UK Government has not provided direct aid to Palestinian Authority since 2021 (the Authority governs the West Bank), though some technical assistance is provided through commercial organisations.

The UK Government states all UK aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip “undergoes rigorous oversight”. This includes field visits, annual audits, due diligence assessments, and mapping of downstream partners of the funding.

The Government also has a memorandum of understanding with the Palestinian Authority, in which the Authority commits to uphold the principles of non-violence, respect international law and commit to taking action against incitement to violence (among other principles of the memorandum). The UK raises any concerns directly with the Palestinian Authority.

In every year from 2014 to 2022, at least half of UK aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been delivered through the UNRWA, rather than through local authorities or civil society groups.

In January 2024, alongside other donors including the European Union and United States, the UK suspended its aid to UNRWA in response to reports that “several” UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October Hamas assault against Israel. The agency has launched an independent investigation but has called for donor funding to be resumed to ensure the continuity of its work. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, has said the UNRWA should be replaced.

The International Development Minister, Andrew Mitchell, says UNRWA plays a “stabilising role” and “critical” one in delivering aid but no UK funding will be committed while investigations continue. He expected the review to take no more than two months. UK aid will continue with other UN agencies and organisations. The Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, has backed the UNRWA investigation and termination of staff but requested “reassurances that “existing UK aid […] continue[s] […] to support current operations”.

What is the state of funding for UN agencies?

The UNRWA, which supports 5.9 million Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and countries across the region including Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, has said it has experienced “ten years of chronic underfunding” and on 3 November said it faced a “financial implosion” during the current conflict. .

On 6 November 2023, the UN called for US$1.2 billion of funding to cover the work of UN agencies, including UNRWA, from 7 October to 31 December 2023.

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