The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said it is investigating its staff suspected of involvement in a Hamas attack on Israel
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UN staff accused of involvement in Hamas attack on Israel

The world body, the United Nations, has found itself at the center of a scandal after its employees were accused of participating in a Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. According to various sources, a number of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in connection with these allegations.

The beginning of the scandal

The UN says Israel provided it with information about the staffers’ alleged involvement.
The UN says Israel provided it with information about the staffers’ alleged involvement. HAMAS under the UN flag

The scandal officially erupted in early 2024, when the UN leadership received information about the possible involvement of UNRWA employees in the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel that occurred on October 7, 2023.

Philippe Lazzarini
Philippe Lazzarini

“I have decided to immediately terminate the employment contracts of these employees and to conduct an investigation to establish the truth without delay,”

said Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA.

Details of the Charges

UNRWA workers are accused of helping Hamas organize the attack that started the war in Gaza, or of assisting Hamas in the days that followed. According to Israeli officials, about 1,200 people were killed in Israel that day, and about 240 were kidnapped and taken to Gaza.
Ronen Bergman of The New York Times Magazine reviewed intelligence documents related to the Israeli allegations and interviewed officials briefed on their contents.
One is accused of kidnapping a woman. Another allegedly distributed ammunition. The third was described as participating in the kibbutz massacre that killed 97 people. And all were reportedly employees of the UN relief agency that trains, shelters and feeds hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The allegations are contained in a dossier provided to the U.S. government detailing Israel’s claims against a dozen U.N. Relief and Works Agency employees it says played a role in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel or their aftermath.
Asked about Israel’s allegations on Sunday, UNRWA said two of the 12 employees were dead but could not provide further information while the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services was still investigating.
The Times has confirmed the identity of one of the 12 workers, a warehouse manager whose social media profile lists him as a UNRWA employee and shows him wearing UN-branded clothing.
An Israeli dossier presented to U.S. officials on Friday lists the names and positions of the UNRWA employees, as well as the allegations against them.
The dossier says Israeli intelligence officers identified the movements of six men inside Israel on Oct. 7 based on their cellphones; others were monitored during phone calls inside Gaza, during which the Israelis say they discussed their involvement in the Hamas attack.
According to the dossier, three others received text messages ordering them to report to rendezvous points on October 7, and one was ordered to bring rocket-propelled grenades stored at his home.
The Israelis described the 10 employees as members of Hamas, the militant group that controlled Gaza during the October 7 attack. Another was reportedly affiliated with another militant group, Islamic Jihad.
However, it is reported that the seven accused also worked as teachers in UNRWA schools, teaching students subjects such as math and Arabic. The other two worked in other positions in the schools. The other three were described as a clerk, a social worker and a warehouse manager.
The most detailed allegations in the dossier concern a school psychologist from Khan Yunis in southern Gaza who is accused of helping his son kidnap a woman from Israel along with his son.
A social worker from Nuseirat in central Gaza is accused of helping to bring the body of a dead Israeli soldier into Gaza, as well as distributing ammunition and coordinating vehicles on the day of the attack.

According to the WSJ report, 23% of male Unrwa employees were affiliated with Hamas, higher than the 15% average for adult males in Gaza, indicating a higher politicization of the agency compared to the population at large.

The reaction of the world community

The United States was the first to respond to the allegations. The State Department expressed extreme concern and suspended the allocation of additional funds to UNRWA. Subsequently, similar measures were taken by a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, and Finland.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken discussed the situation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, emphasizing that allegations against UNRWA staff should be thoroughly and promptly investigated. According to the US State Department, the allegations involve 12 agency employees.

In a statement, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the attack on Israel on 7 October, a despicable act of terrorism which the Government has repeatedly condemned”. Funding has been suspended while the government considers the allegations against UNRWA.

Lenient Work Schedule - HAMAS Under The UN Flag
Lenient Work Schedule

“With regard to the matter mentioned above, we ask of you to provide the brother Nur-Aldin Naim Mahmoud Siam, who works at the Aljanan high school (as a math teacher), with a flexible work schedule, as the nature of his position with us requires constant follow-ups”.

Official letters from the the Hamas’ military wing personally delivered and addressed to Dr. Muhammad Hamdan, Head of the Directorate of Education and Teaching in Gaza.

In addition to the United States and the United Kingdom, other countries have spoken out on the issue. In particular, Canada, Australia, Italy and Finland have also suspended funding to UNRWA. The European Union said it would consider further steps “based on the results of a full and comprehensive investigation.

The UN and UNRWA Response

The UN and UNRWA leadership, for their part, expressed deep concern and shock at the allegations. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was shocked by what had happened and threatened those responsible with immediate dismissal and prosecution if the allegations were confirmed. “Anyone who betrays the core values of the United Nations betrays those we serve in Gaza, throughout the region and in other parts of the world,” the world body chief stressed.

The world organization, the UN, has been at the center of a scandal after its employees were accused of involvement in a Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.
HAMAS under the UN flag

In turn, UNRWA has launched an investigation into several of its employees suspected of involvement in the Hamas attack on Israel. Established in 1949, the UN agency provides medical, educational and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The suspension of UNRWA funding could have serious consequences for the agency and the millions of people who depend on its assistance. According to the head of UNRWA in Gaza, the agency’s remaining funds will be sufficient to provide services to the population until the end of February.

UN aid agency members supplied Hamas with RPGs, took Israeli woman hostage during Oct. 7 attacks, damning intel finds
New York Post UN aid agency members supplied Hamas with RPGs, took Israeli woman hostage during Oct. 7 attacks, damning intel finds

Refugees: Facts and figures

As of the first half of 2023, there are 114 million registered refugees worldwide, although the actual number is much higher. Of this total, less than five percent, or 4.7 million people, are Palestinian refugees. It is interesting to examine the question of how the status of a “Palestinian refugee” is determined, as it requires separate consideration.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the organization responsible for handling the affairs of all refugees except Palestinians. For Palestinian refugees, there is a separate UN agency called UNRWA.

While UNHCR has a staff of 21,000 to deal with the 114 million refugees, UNRWA, which deals with the affairs of 4.7 million Palestinian refugees, has a staff of 30,000.

The UNHCR’s budget is about one billion dollars, or about eight dollars per refugee. UNRWA, on the other hand, has a budget of $1.3 billion, which translates into an expenditure of about $276 per Palestinian refugee.

Impact on Palestinians

Since the start of the war in Gaza, more than two million Palestinians have been dependent on humanitarian aid. The lack of funding can seriously affect their well-being and complicate an already difficult situation in the region.

According to the head of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, the organization's remaining funds will be sufficient to provide services to the population until the end of February.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was founded in 1949. It provides humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The United States is one of the largest financial donors to the organization.HAMAS under the UN flag

Israel’s Response

Israel, for its part, welcomed the countries’ decisions to suspend funding. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the ministry would work to end UNRWA’s activities in Gaza. But according to three officials involved in the discussion, Israeli officials themselves were worried Sunday about whether their accusations might ultimately complicate their own situation. A collapse of services in Gaza could force Israel to take on a larger role in aid distribution – a role it does not want.

Eylon Levy
Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy

Hamas Response

Hamas urged “not to succumb to blackmail”. “We call on the UN and international organizations not to succumb to threats and blackmail from Israel,” the movement’s press service said.
Overall, the situation remains tense. Ongoing investigations and further action by the international community should provide answers to questions about the involvement of UNRWA staff in the terrorist attack, their possible punishment, and the future of the agency.

We ask you to continue to spread the truth with us. The world needs to know what is happening in the Middle East.

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