update deskIsrael at War

Gantz: Support aid orgs not linked to Hamas, ‘like UNRWA’

Gantz's portrayal of the U.N. agency as not connected to the terrorist group seems to directly contradict the government's position.

Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz speaks to reporters at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Dec. 16, 2023. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz speaks to reporters at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Dec. 16, 2023. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s War Cabinet, on Tuesday night called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to support UNRWA, apparently dismissing mounting evidence of the U.N. agency’s connections to Hamas.

“We must advance an outline under which food will be delivered to Gaza through international entities not connected to Hamas, such as UNRWA or other bodies, even if this requires stopping or reducing quantities,” Gantz said at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

“All possibilities can be on the table, except for one option: Just not Hamas,” added the National Unity Party leader.

Gantz and party colleague Gadi Eizenkot, both former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff, joined Netanyahu’s government from the opposition and became members of the War Cabinet following Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre of some 1,200 people in the northwestern Negev.

The War Cabinet is responsible for the day-to-day management of the war effort and meets frequently. In addition to Netanyahu and Gantz, it includes Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Eizenkot, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri serve as observers.

Gantz’s portrayal of UNRWA as an entity “not connected to Hamas” seemed to directly contradict the government’s official position.

Last month, an Israeli intelligence report found that at least 12 UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7 massacre, leading more than a dozen countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., to suspend funding.

Moreover, Intelligence indicates that “out of approximately 12,000 UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip, about 10% are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives, and another 50% are first-degree relatives of a Hamas operative,” Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said on Jan. 30.

“The minority of states still funding UNRWA despite revelations of its staff’s involvement in the 10/7 massacre must suspend funds immediately,” Levy said at the time.

Netanyahu told a visiting delegation of United Nations ambassadors last week that “UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas.”

The premier has given the military until the end of the week to come up with alternatives to UNRWA for the distribution of humanitarian aid to Gaza. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi is tasked with leading the effort.

Ronen Bar, head of the Israeli Security Agency, or Shin Bet, has said that Hamas diverts at least 60% of the aid entering the Strip for its own purposes.

During closed-door War Cabinet meetings, Gantz and Eizenkot previously proposed that Israel limit the flow of supplies to the Strip to place pressure on Hamas, according to reports.

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