newsOctober 7

UNRWA staff took part in Be’eri massacre, kidnapping

Around 10% of the agency's 12,000-strong Gaza staff have ties to Islamist terror groups.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, July 26, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, July 26, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

Israeli intelligence material handed to the United States reveals the extent of United Nations Relief and Works Agency staff participation in the Oct. 7, 2023, massacre.

The New York Times on Sunday published details regarding the involvement of 12 UNRWA employees in the Hamas-led terrorist attack in southern Israel—10 Hamas operatives and one affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Wall Street Journal also reviewed the dossier, publishing additional findings from the Israeli intelligence reports on Monday, including that around 10% of the U.N. agency’s 12,000-strong Gaza staff have ties to Islamist terrorist groups.

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 murdered, and a third of distributing ammunition.

“UNRWA’s problem is not just ‘a few bad apples’ involved in the October 7 massacre. The institution as a whole is a haven for Hamas’s radical ideology,” a senior Israeli government official told the Journal.

Seven of the accused were teachers at UNRWA schools, according to the dossier. Six of the men were inside Israel on Oct. 7, based on tracking of their cell phones, while others were overheard in Gaza discussing their involvement in the terrorist attack.

Three received text messages ordering them to report to meeting points on Oct. 7, and one was told to bring a rocket-propelled grenade stored at his home.

According to the Times report, the most detailed case in the dossier involves a school counselor from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip who is accused of working with his son to abduct a woman from Israel. In another case, a social worker from Nuseirat in central Gaza assisted in bringing an Israeli soldier’s corpse to Gaza and in distributing ammunition and coordinating vehicles on the day of the attack.

The Journal highlighted other cases, including a UNRWA math teacher and Hamas member who took a close-range picture of a female hostage in Gaza and another teacher who was carrying an anti-tank missile the night before the invasion. Another UNRWA employee set up an operations room for Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Oct. 8, the day after the attack.

Additionally, a 13th UNRWA employee entered Israel during the Oct. 7 attack, according to the dossier seen by the Journal. Hundreds of Gaza civilians followed the Hamas terrorists across the Israel-Gaza border, participating in the mass looting and destruction.

UNRWA fired some of the staff members after Israel provided intelligence regarding their complicity. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Sunday that nine had been terminated, one was dead and the identities of the other two were being clarified.

Austria and Romania on Monday joined 13 other countries in suspending funding for UNRWA over the accusations—Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S.

“We call on UNRWA and the United Nations to conduct a comprehensive, swift and complete investigation into the allegations,” Austria’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Also, the European Union announced on Monday that it is reviewing funding for UNRWA, demanding an “urgent” audit of the agency. As of 2022, the E.U. was the third-biggest donor to UNRWA after the United States and Germany, contributing over $114 million.

UNRWA said on Monday it will not be able to continue operations in Gaza and across the region beyond the end of February if funding is not resumed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Monday canceled meetings planned for this week between ministry officials and UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini.

“UNRWA employees participated in the massacre of Oct. 7,” Katz said. “Lazzarini should draw conclusions and resign. Supporters of terrorism are not welcome here.”

Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered during the Oct. 7 terrorist attack. Thousands more were wounded and 253 taken hostage to Gaza, where 136 remain in the hands of Hamas, although some are confirmed dead.

UNRWA under fire

Since Oct. 7, UNRWA has come under fire numerous times, prompting Knesset lawmakers to reassess Israel’s relationship with the agency.

Reports released by IMPACT-SE and the U.N. Watch NGO document UNRWA employees expressing support for the attacks on social media.

Soldiers 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.

Palestinians are the only refugee population with its own dedicated U.N. agency. The rest of the world’s refugees fall under the mandate of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Israeli officials have called for UNRWA to be closed and for Palestinian refugees to be brought under the aegis of the UNHCR.

Israel’s biggest criticism of UNRWA is that unlike the UNHCR, the agency defines refugee status as hereditary and irrespective of citizenship in other countries, resulting in the number of Palestinian refugees increasing over time.

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