THE UK Government is facing the threat of legal action over its decision to pause funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) working in Palestine.

It comes after the UK Government previously announced it was pausing its funding for the agency following claims from Israel that 12 employees were involved in the October 7 attack.

We previously told how UN investigators had yet to receive any evidence from Israel to support the claims at the beginning of March.

The National:

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has now submitted a pre-action letter to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) challenging their ongoing decision to pause the funding.

The ICJP describes itself as "an independent organisation of lawyers, academics and politicians that work to promote and support Palestinian rights".

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It has been launched by Bindmans LLP, on behalf of a British-Palestinian man in a bid to protect his family, who are UNRWA-registered refugees.

In a post on the ICJP website, it says the decision to pause the funding “was decided illogically and without due consideration of evidence, of international obligations, or of FCDO decision-making frameworks”.

It adds: “The claimant is seeking the withdrawal of this decision and the restoration of funding to UNRWA.

“A judicial review will be launched if the Government does not announce the restoration of UNRWA funding by Tuesday April 2.”

The ICJP explained that the client’s family are “completely reliant” on UNRWA aid and that they are currently based in the Jabalia refugee camp.

They have already reported “major shortages of food, water and essentials” with the UN warning that famine is imminent in northern Gaza.

"The complainant alleges that the Government's decision may violate its international obligations, possibly making it complicit in Israel's apparent breaches of the Genocide Convention and Common Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention," the ICJP explains. 

"It is also alleged that the decision taken runs contrary to the FCDO's Strategy for International Development and its International Humanitarian framework."

Alice Hardy, partner at Bindmans with conduct of the case, said: “The UK government’s strategy for international development sets out four priorities, including to ‘provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and work to prevent the worst forms of human suffering’.

"Given the catastrophic situation in Gaza, including an impending, man-made famine, the ongoing decision to cease funding to UNRWA is not only morally wrong but flies in the face of that strategy.

"The 12 members of staff against whom allegations were made have been suspended and two investigations were immediately initiated.

"Canada, Sweden, Australia, and the EU are satisfied with the measures that have been taken. The immense suffering of the Gazan people makes it imperative to reinstate funding to UNRWA as quickly as possible.”

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ICJP senior public affairs officer Jonathan Purcell said: “The Government knows that UNRWA is the only effective means to deliver humanitarian aid, and it ought to know that it hasn’t given sufficient reason on how, or why, it decided to cut funding.

"When the decision to withdraw funds was taken, it was illogical. Now, with Gaza staring famine in the face, it is unconscionable.

"The government must restore funding immediately, if it doesn’t wish to be complicit in the thousands of deaths by hunger and thirst which are, terribly, very likely to occur in the months to come.”

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Humza Yousaf (above) previously confirmed the Scottish Government had not paused its funding for UNRWA.

He said the Government "has provided as much as we can within our financial constraints".

The National has approached the FCDO for comment. 

Land seizure statement

Meanwhile, the UK Government released a statement in response to Israel announcing the seizure of further land in the Jordan Valley.

Israel’s finance minister Bezalel Smotrich previously declared 800 hectares (1977 acres) in the occupied West Bank as state land.

“While there are those in Israel and in the world who seek to undermine our right to Judea and Samaria and the country in general, we promote settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country,” he said.

Palestinian authorities condemned the land seizure, describing the move as a “crime” that is part of an “official policy racing against time to annex the West Bank and eliminate the possibility of creating a Palestinian state”.

In response, a spokesperson for the FCDO said: “The UK strongly condemns the recent Israeli Government announcement to seize 1977 acres of Palestinian lands in the Jordan Valley.

"The size of the area designated for seizure is the largest since the Oslo Accords, agreed over 30 years ago. This declaration is in addition to 652 acres of land marked for seizure by Israel on 29 February, meaning 2024 now marks an unacceptable peak in land seizures.

"The UK calls on the Israeli Government to halt this seizure and all others immediately. Our policy is clear - settlements are illegal under international law and only make it harder to progress to achieving peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians."