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Israel calls to shelve UNRWA after latest reports on terror ties

The agency "is a Hamas front and it's time to put it behind us," said the Prime Minister's Office.

A U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees building in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 29, 2021. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
A U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees building in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 29, 2021. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

After recent revelations of UNRWA’s support for terrorism and participation by some of its members in the Oct. 7 attack on the northwestern Negev, Israel has demanded the U.N. agency be stripped of its authority in the Gaza Strip.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office detailed how UNRWA aids Hamas. The PMO demanded that UNRWA be defunded, its leadership resign or be dismissed, and that it no longer play an educational role in the Gaza Strip.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken forcefully of the need for deradicalization in Gaza. He has therefore stated clearly the need to ensure that Gaza children not be educated to be terrorists,” PMO spokesman Eylon Levy said, noting that UNRWA indoctrinates children against Israel and Jews.

“UNRWA is part of the problem, not part of the solution. It is a Hamas front and it’s time to put it behind us,” Levy said.

“Foreign Minister Israel Katz has called for UNRWA to be replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development,” he added. “It happens in every other conflict in the world where people are helped by genuine U.N. agencies and not by tailor-made refugee agencies.”

Levy referred to the fact that UNRWA exists to assist only Palestinian refugees while all of the world’s other refugees are assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Existing U.N. aid agencies can take over from UNRWA to deliver assistance to Palestinians, he said.

UNRWA came under fire after The New York Times broke the story on Sunday that 12 staff members took part in the Oct. 7 massacre in which Hamas terrorists rampaged through Israel’s south, murdering some 1,200 persons, mostly civilians.

The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported that one in 10 UNRWA employees is either an active member or has ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“Our 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,” Levy said.

At least 15 countries, including the U.S., suspended funding to the organization following the revelations. The U.S. is UNRWA’s largest donor, giving the group $422 million in 2023.

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

The U.N. is trying to save UNRWA. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to governments to continue sending cash to UNRWA at least until war-related humanitarian needs subside. He was set to meet with major donors on Tuesday.

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