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President criticises ‘propaganda campaign’ against UN

President Michael D Higgins has issued a blistering critique of the situation in Gaza, saying it is scandalous that humanitarian aid and medical supplies are being blocked from entering the coastal strip.

He added that those nations respsonsible for allowing the blockade to continue “must take responsibility for the deaths that are ensuing”.

The President also criticised a “propaganda campaign” against the United Nations and called on countries to increase aid for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).

Several countries, including the US and UK, have paused funding for the relief agency in Gaza following claims from Israel that some UNRWA staff took part in the Hamas attack on 7 October.

In a statement this afternoon, President Higgins said: “The releasing of a propaganda campaign against the United Nations is a scandalous travesty against the little less than heroic efforts of all those involved on the frontline in Gaza – medical staff, those working to supply nutrition and aid in the most trying of circumstances, and those other dedicated professionals in UNRWA who have lost more than 160 of their colleagues.”

He said more than $450m (€412m) has been removed from UNRWA’s budget and that countries “must take account of what is now being shown on the television screens of the world for all to see – infant children dying from lack of oxygen, many more dying from malnutrition and all of this set to escalate”.

Last week, the head of UNRWA told the UN General Assembly that the agency has been “facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations, and ultimately end them”.

Philippe Lazzarini said that part of the campaign involved “inundating donors with misinformation designed to foster distrust and tarnish the reputation of the agency”.

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Today, President Higgins said UN members should “take notice” of Mr Lazzarini’s statement, adding: “It is a campaign which could have the effect of undermining the role of the UN in the present circumstances and in relation to the future of Gaza. His plea for help deserves the support of all who believe in the United Nations.”

Last month, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin announced €20 million in support for UNRWA.

President Higgins urged countries to “emulate Ireland’s example in increasing its aid at this time to this most vital United Nations agency”.

He said he welcomed recent decisions by Canada and Sweden “to rescind a previous decision and resume aid to UNRWA”.

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President Higgins also called for a ceasefire and criticised the blocking of aid trucks in the enclave.

In his statement, he said that vital essential medicines and sources of energy must be provided to what is left of the hospitals in Gaza.

He said that as the world watches Gaza descend yet deeper towards famine, and ever greater loss of life, it is vital that every country now does all in its power to ensure that a humanitarian disaster – in its most extreme sense – is avoided”.

He added: “The situation we are now witnessing in Gaza is one from which the global public must not be distracted or avert its gaze.

“It is a matter of life and death. The blockading of food and aid must immediately be stopped.

“The blocking of aid trucks by extremist settlers speaks for itself, being as it is an appalling denial of the humanity of those dying of hunger when it could be avoided.

“It is past time that Ireland was joined by all of those countries of the European Union and beyond in calling for an immediate ceasefire to be agreed and for this most vital humanitarian aid to be provided to those so in need of it.”

UNRWA employees clear a damaged street following a raid over the weekend

The United Nations Secretary-General has said he is “appalled” by conflict continuing in Gaza despite the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Speaking after the failure of attempts to negotiate a ceasefire, Antonio Guterres called for “silencing the guns” in the territory and warned that “hunger and malnutrition” are taking hold.

Additional reporting AFP

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