The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has fired 12 Gaza Strip employees and launched an investigation after Israel accused them of planning and participating in Hamas’ terrorist assault on October 7. The claims are against UNRWA staff.
“The Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on October 7,” stated Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s commissioner-general.
“To protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.”
Lazzarini did not provide the number of personnel who allegedly participated in the attacks, nor the nature of their involvement. He did, however, promise to hold “any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror” accountable, including through criminal prosecution.
Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesperson, accused UNRWA of revealing the announcement on Friday while the world’s attention was focused on the World Court’s ruling directing Israel to prevent crimes of genocide against Palestinians and do more to assist civilians in Gaza.
“Any other day, this would have been a major headline: ‘Israel submits evidence of UN employees’ complicity with Hamas’,” Levy wrote in an article for X.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been briefed on the claims, according to his spokesperson.
“The secretary-general is horrified,” said spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.
US Halts Assistance to UNRWA
Dujarric went on to say that the UN chief had requested Lazzarini to conduct an investigation to guarantee that any UNRWA employee found to have participated or supported the Hamas October 7 attack was fired immediately and referred for possible criminal prosecution.
“An urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA will be conducted,” Dujarric said in a statement.
The US has halted additional assistance.
UNRWA, whose largest donors in 2022 were the United States, Germany, and the European Union, has frequently stated that its ability to provide humanitarian aid to Gazans is on the edge of collapse.
The US State Department expressed deep concern over the charges against 12 UNRWA personnel. It stated that it would not award any additional funding to the agency until the issues were resolved.
Fueling Hamas Terrorism
“The Department of State has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them,” a representative for the Department of State said.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described the US move as a significant step towards keeping UNRWA accountable.
“Major changes need to take place so that international efforts, funds, and humanitarian initiatives don’t fuel Hamas terrorism and the murder of Israelis,” he wrote in a blog post.
The US State Department recently lauded UNRWA’s efforts, and Joe Biden’s administration reinstated money that had been suspended during Donald Trump’s leadership.
According to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the EU will “assess further steps and draw lessons based on the results of the full and comprehensive investigation”.
UNRWA, founded in 1949 during the first Arab-Israeli war, provides education, primary healthcare, and humanitarian help to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have accused the agency of inciting anti-Israel sentiment, which it denies.
UNRWA has supplied relief and used its facilities to shelter refugees fleeing Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza following the Oct. 7 attacks, which Israel claims killed 1,200 people and kidnapped 240 more.
According to health officials in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s offensive has devastated much of the densely populated area and killed over 26,000 Hamas militants and Palestinian.
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