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Updated January 30th, 2024 at 07:29 IST

Israel’s Claim of UN Staff Being 'Hardened' Hamas Aides Spark Funding Crisis in Gaza-Palestine

The United States, deeming the allegations 'highly credible' and 'deeply troubling,' called for an immediate UNRWA investigation.

Israel accuses 190 UN staff of being 'hardened' militants in a dossier prepared by its intelligence.
Israel accuses 190 UN staff of being 'hardened' militants in a dossier prepared by its intelligence. | Image: Reuters
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Tel Aviv: Israel has accused 190 United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staff of having ties to militant groups, prompting several countries to suspend funds for the agency. The accusations are part of an Israeli intelligence dossier, alleging that some employees, including teachers, were involved in abductions and killings during the Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7 that sparked the war in Gaza.

The six-page dossier, shared with a news agency, claims that 190 UNRWA employees, including teachers, have affiliations with Hamas or Islamic Jihad, both based in Gaza. It includes names and pictures of 11 individuals. However, as per reports, the United Nations has not officially received the dossier.

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Palestine Dismisses Israeli Dossier as Fake 

The Palestinians argue that Israel is spreading false information to tarnish UNRWA's reputation. The agency has reportedly fired some employees and is investigating the allegations. The dossier accuses individuals of various activities, such as abductions, coordinating movements of raiders, and participating in attacks.

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Israel's Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, also called for the resignation of UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini, alleging UNRWA employees' involvement in the Oct 7 massacre. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh dismissed the accusations as a ‘premeditated political attack’ and urged the restoration of aid funds.

The dossier, compiled by Israeli intelligence, was shared with the United States, leading to the suspension of US funding for UNRWA. An Israeli official claimed that the 190 mentioned in the dossier were ‘hardened fighters, killers’, while acknowledging a general belief that around 10 percent of UNRWA staff had affiliations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

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Challenges Ahead for Gaza Palestine 

The funding suspension poses a significant challenge for UNRWA, which provides assistance to over half of Gaza's 2.3 million Palestinians. Further as per media reports, more than 10 countries, including major donors like the United States and Germany, have halted their funding to the agency.

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UNRWA stated that it would be unable to continue operations in Gaza and the region beyond February's end if funding is not resumed. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to meet major UNRWA donors to discuss the situation.

US Deems Israeli Allegations as ‘Highly Credible’

The United States, describing the allegations as ‘highly credible’ and ‘deeply troubling,’ underlined the need for an immediate investigation by UNRWA, reports added. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Washington would closely monitor UNRWA's response and actions to address the allegations before considering resuming support.

UNRWA in Gaza and UN Secy Gen's Pledge

UNRWA was established in 1948 to assist refugees from the war at Israel's founding. It currently supports millions of refugees and their descendants in Palestinian territories and abroad. Israel has long accused UNRWA of perpetuating conflict by discouraging refugee resettlement and has previously claimed staff involvement in armed attacks. Despite the serious allegations, UNRWA denies wrongdoing, asserting its role as a relief agency. The agency has been a lifeline for many Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, where more than 26,000 people have died in Israel's military campaign against Hamas, as per documented reports. With funding cuts, aid workers warn of growing risks of preventable diseases and famine.

As the crisis unfolds, Secretary-General António Guterres has pledged to hold accountable any employee involved in ‘abhorrent’ acts. He urged nations to continue funding UNRWA for humanitarian reasons, emphasising the critical role it plays in meeting the needs of vulnerable populations.

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Published January 30th, 2024 at 07:29 IST

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