update deskIsrael at War

UNRWA, on ropes over terror ties, decides to investigate Israel

Israel's foreign minister blasted the embattled U.N. agency's "audacity."

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

Despite itself being the focus of an investigation, UNRWA has opened an inquiry into Israel’s conduct towards Gazan prisoners of war, sparking a rebuke from Israel’s government.

“The audacity of @UNRWA, with employees complicit in the October 7th massacre and thousands linked to Hamas, is unacceptable,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz posted to X on Monday.

“Their facilities were exploited by terrorist networks. @UNLazzarini [UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini], who remained silent, must step down. UNRWA’s presence in Gaza post-Hamas is untenable. This marks the end of Hamas’s influence in the @UN,” he added.

The U.N. aid agency accuses Israel of abusing hundreds of Palestinian Arabs captured during the Gaza war, reported The New York Times on Sunday, which said it reviewed a draft of the report.

The report accuses Israel of “a range of ill-treatment that Gazans of all ages, abilities and backgrounds have reported facing in makeshift detention facilities in Israel,” according to the Times.

The reputation of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, was badly tarnished after Israel released evidence that 30 of its employees took part in Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, underscoring ongoing criticism that UNRWA is effectively a Hamas-controlled entity.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said 1,468 of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff members in Gaza are members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Subsequent reporting has suggested that 10% of UNRWA’s staff have ties to Palestinian terrorism.

Following the revelations, the United States and Germany, UNRWA’s biggest donors, suspended funding to the agency totaling $438 million. Over a dozen countries followed suit.

In response, the United Nations launched an independent “review group” to assess whether UNRWA is maintaining its neutrality and responding appropriately to alleged breaches of that neutrality.

Critics, however, have called the review group a “farce” and a “desperate scheme” to save UNRWA, which is under dire financial pressure following the suspension of funding.

The review group is to issue an initial report to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres by March 21. A final report, which the United Nations said will be made public, is due by April 20.

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