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Israeli housing minister kickstarts process to evict UNRWA

Yitzhak Goldknopf instructed the Israel Lands Authority "to immediately end all agreements" with the "nefarious" organization over its ties to Hamas.

UNWRA offices in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
UNWRA offices in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.

Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf has instructed the Israel Land Authority (ILA) to immediately cancel all lease agreements with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and evict it from its main headquarters in eastern Jerusalem.

UNRWA “acted in the service of Hamas and even took part in the brutal massacre on Oct. 7, and mounting evidence shows that the organization has been supporting, assisting and educating [Palestinians] to harm Israel,” Goldknopf wrote in a letter made public on Monday night.

The minister instructed ILA head Yanki Quint “to immediately end all agreements of the Israel Land Authority with the nefarious UNRWA organization and remove them from the territories leased to them and from all the territories that the organization uses in the State of Israel.”

UNRWA maintains extensive facilities in Jerusalem, including a large compound on Shlomo Zalman Shragai Street in Maalot Dafna and structures in the capital’s northeastern Kafr Aqab neighborhood.

The agency has been embroiled in scandal since last month’s revelation of the involvement of 12 of its employees in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

One of the UNRWA workers is accused of kidnapping a woman, another of participating in the Kibbutz Be’eri massacre, in which nearly 100 people were killed, and a third of distributing ammunition.

Last week, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich ordered the annulment of tax benefits granted to UNRWA, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked the country’s military to find alternatives for the distribution of humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The Prime Minister’s Office said on Jan. 30 that 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.”

Late last week, Israeli forces exposed a Hamas data center underneath the Gaza headquarters of UNRWA, replete with servers, electricity, a backup power station and living quarters for terrorists.

Israel Defense Forces soldiers have also found missiles hidden among UNRWA relief supplies, while UNRWA-marked aid sacks were found filled with dirt and used in the lining of Hamas terror tunnels.

“UNRWA is totally infiltrated [by] Hamas,” Netanyahu told a visiting delegation of U.N. ambassadors earlier this month.

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