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This research briefing addresses frequently asked questions about UK aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories 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 aid 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.

Since April 2024, aid is being sent to Gaza through the Rafah, Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings. Airdrops and a maritime corridor from Cyprus have also been used. UNOCHA reports that the average number of trucks entering Gaza daily before 7 October were around 500, but since then the highest daily average for the number of trucks sent has been 183, from 5 to 11 April 2024. The UK Government has backed UN Security Council resolutions demanding an increase of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and welcomed Israel’s commitment to increase the number of trucks carrying aid daily to 500.

What aid has been committed since October?

For 2023/24, the UK has committed over £100 million in aid to the OPTs (around US$126 million). A total of £35 million was provided to UNRWA before funding was suspended in January (see next section). Additional commitments have also been announced by the United States (US$180 million) and the European Union (€103 million, around US$112 million, for 2023, and €125 million for 2024, US$136 million). Germany, France, Canada and Japan (PDF) have also pledged 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 UNRWA, rather than through local authorities or civil society groups.

Suspension of future funding to UNRWA

In January 2024, alongside other donors including the European Union and United States, the UK said it would pause future funding decisions on UNRWA in response to reports that “several” UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October Hamas assault against Israel. The agency called for donor funding to be resumed to ensure the continuity of its work. As of 25 April, the European Union has resumed its funding, as have Sweden, France and Germany.  

The UK Government says it had made all its planned contributions to UNRWA in the 2023/24 financial year (£35 million) before its decision to pause future funding. Before it decides to resume funding, the Government says it will consider two UN inquiry assessments and require UNRWA to make “detailed undertakings” on “personnel, policy and precedents”.

The first report of two UN-commissioned investigations was published on 22 April. This set out 50 recommendations for UNRWA, including more screening of UNRWA staff. UNRWA and the UN accepted the recommendations in full, while Israel argued these were “cosmetic” changes and says it will no longer work with UNRWA. The review also noted that in 2024 Israel had not provided supporting evidence that UNRWA staff were members of terrorist groups. The UK is awaiting both reports and UNRWA’s response before making a decision.


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