Aid to Gaza must resume amid UN probe into workers’ role over Hamas attack, no reason to ‘punish’ Palestinians

Kang, who previously served as South Korea’s foreign minister, told This Week in Asia on Thursday: “It’s terrible that some of their [UNRWA] workers could be involved in the October 7 terrorist attack.”

President of Asia Society and former South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. Photo: EPA-EFE

While those involved in the attack should be “thoroughly investigated”, Kang highlighted that the UNRWA had saved many lives over the last two decades. War victims such as the Gazans had “already suffered unimaginable consequences” and humanitarian work should continue, she added.

“I would just hope that the donors – those who have suspended aid – will come back,” she said. “Let UNRWA continue its work.”

Israel’s military offensive against Hamas has destroyed large parts of the Gaza Strip and killed more than 26,000 people, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.

Separately, the UN says that the war has displaced nearly 85 per cent of Gaza’s population, halting economic activity and worsening poverty. Food supply to the area has also been scanty, deepening the misery of the Palestinians.

Kang also expressed concern over the escalating violence in the Red Sea amid retaliatory attacks in response to the Israel-Gaza war by Iran-backed Houthi militants and the consequent counterattacks by US-backed allies. The conflict in the Red Sea has disrupted global shipping and led to a spike in marine transportation costs.

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All countries should come together to achieve peace by resolving the geopolitical conflicts ranging from the Russia-Ukraine war to the Israel-Gaza war, she said.
“In Asia, we also have a conflict situation in Myanmar. I think Asean member states have to find a way to generate some momentum for peace even as the conflict continues in Myanmar,” Kang added.

Myanmar on Thursday entered its fourth year since a coup ended a short-lived democratically elected government, with the embattled junta warning that it will do “whatever it takes” to crush opposition to its rule. The military rulers have suffered several defeats in their conflict against ethnic armed groups in recent months, losing territories such as in the region bordering China.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guerres has called for an end to violence and a return to democracy in Myanmar on the anniversary of the military putsch. More than 4,400 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent and over 25,000 arrested since the coup, according to a local monitoring group.

“In South Korea, we are also faced with a situation with North Korea, where the tension continues to rise every day with [Pyongyang’s] missile provocation and the pronouncement by the leader [Kim Jong-un] that he no longer considers us a friendly, brother country but a hostile neighbour,” Kang said.

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Undergirding Peace

Kang also highlighted the loss of democratic values across parts of Asia. Ahead of elections, incumbent leaders have weakened institutions such as courts, silenced journalists and suppressed the opposition, she added.

Last month, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured a fourth straight term in office. Meanwhile, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was sentenced on Wednesday to 14 years in jail on charges of corruption, dealing a blow to his hopes of returning to power in parliamentary elections. Khan has claimed that the charges against him were politically motivated.

The longer-term prosperity and peace of countries cannot be sustained without them being undergirded by institutional rules, Kang said.


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“I would just appeal to all leaders to say, we are losing sight of the longer sustainability of the global community and humanity as a whole,” she added.

“Once you lose peace, it is so difficult to return to peace. And we see that in Gaza and Ukraine. All leaders everywhere have a role to play in this regard,” she said.

While UN agencies such as the World Food Program can work effectively for humanity, the UN Security Council has not been able to achieve peace through the resolution of ongoing conflicts, Kang said.

She added, “Big powers need to find a way to revive life in the UN as a political entity.”

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