newsIsrael at War

UNRWA claims Israel coerced Hamas confessions from employees

The agency alleged the workers were mistreated in Israeli detention in an unpublished, 11-page report reviewed by Reuters.

Palestinians receive bags of flour at an UNRWA distribution center, Nov. 23, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinians receive bags of flour at an UNRWA distribution center, Nov. 23, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, under fire for its links to the Hamas terror organization, is claiming that some of its employees were pressured by Israeli authorities into falsely claiming Hamas ties.

UNRWA alleged the workers were mistreated in Israeli detention in a February report reviewed by Reuters.

“UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma said the agency planned to hand the information in the 11-page, unpublished report to agencies inside and outside the U.N. specialized in documenting potential human rights abuses,” the news outlet reported on Friday.

“When the war comes to an end there needs to be a series of inquiries to look into all violations of human rights,” Touma said.

Unnamed Palestinian UNRWA workers in the report claimed ill-treatment by the Israeli army while in detention, including ”severe physical beatings, waterboarding and threats of harm to family members.”

UNRWA staff “have been subject to threats and coercion by the Israeli authorities while in detention, and pressured to make false statements against the agency, including that the agency has affiliations with Hamas and that UNRWA staff members took part in the 7 October 2023 atrocities,” the report states.

UNRWA did not permit Reuters to see transcripts of the interviews containing the allegations.

In late January, Israel handed intelligence material to the United States revealing the extent of UNRWA staff participation in the Oct. 7 massacre.

“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 said.

In February, the Israeli government further revealed that at least 12% of the 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza were affiliated with the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups.

Sixteen countries suspended funding to UNRWA in the wake of the January accusations, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The U.N.’s Office for Internal Oversight Services opened an investigation into UNRWA concerning its links to Hamas and the Oct. 7 terrorist invasion.

However, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters last week that he expects the countries that suspended funding will soon restore their financial contributions to the embattled agency.

His comments followed a European Union announcement on March 1 that the first tranche of UNRWA’s 82 million euro 2024 budget, amounting to 50 million euros, would be disbursed despite the controversy.

Israel slammed the E.U. decision, noting that the U.N. investigation hadn’t been completed.

Israel has repeatedly said it wants UNRWA shuttered as it has effectively been taken over by Hamas.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel said last week that the agency must be ended “once and for all,” and that other international humanitarian and food organizations can serve as alternatives to funnel aid to the Palestinians.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is proposing to redirect aid to the Palestinians through the World Food Program, an organization within the U.N. that provides food assistance worldwide.

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