UNRWA Controversy: UN Forms Impartial Team to Investigate Hamas Allegations

Following claims by Israel that certain UNRWA employees were complicit in Hamas' October 7 killings in southern Israel, the UN on Monday announced the appointment of an impartial team to evaluate the Palestinian assistance organization. Jerusalem praised the action and said that it will provide documents for the investigation.

This announcement coincided with the visit of UNRWA Chief Executive Philippe Lazzarini to the Gulf, an attempt to rally support for the beleaguered humanitarian organization after major donors withdrew support following reports that Israeli intelligence had revealed the involvement of 12 staff members in the horrific attacks and that hundreds more had direct ties to Hamas and other terror organizations.

Concerns have been raised that UNRWA may no longer be able to provide essential aid to Gaza's suffering population, which has been left vulnerable after months of conflict sparked by the Hamas massacre, as a result of the allegations, prompting about 15 countries to suspend funding to the organization. These countries include major donors the United States, Germany, Britain, and Sweden.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated on Monday that he has sent an impartial team "to evaluate whether the Agency is carrying out all necessary measures to maintain impartiality and to address major violations when they arise."

Alongside the review board's work will be an internal UN probe of UNRWA staff participation in the October 7 massacre, which saw thousands of terrorists led by Hamas attack southern Israel, murdering almost 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and capturing 253 more to be taken to Gaza.

According to Guterres, "the outcome of the probe will depend on the cooperation of the Israeli authorities, who made these charges."

In a post on X, the previous Twitter platform, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Israel will provide "any proof demonstrating UNRWA's links to terrorists and its damaging repercussions on regional security."

The foreign minister also reiterated his demand for Lazzarini's "prompt resignation" and encouraged the independent review board to "bring the truth to light."

In cooperation with three research institutions—the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden—former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna will chair the panel.

As per Guterres' statement, the organization will provide a preliminary assessment by the end of the next month, and then a public final report one month later.

Among the accusations, which Israel assembled, were claims that UNRWA staff members abducted Israelis, carried munitions and a deceased soldier's corpse, and participated in a homicidal attack on a kibbutz on October 7.

Nine of the twelve employees who Israel had accused had been fired, one had passed away, and the names of the other two were still being investigated, according to the UN head.

Later this week, Lazzarini will go to Kuwait and Qatar, according to Reuters spokeswoman Juliette Touma.

"We are hoping that those who put off financing would think again and that other people will come forward as well," she said.

On UNRWA's list of the top 20 contributors, Kuwait and Qatar come in at positions 19 and 20, respectively, contributing $12 million and $10.5 million in 2022. Not on the list was the United Arab Emirates.

After the conflict that preceded Israel's formation, which resulted in 700,000 Palestinians being forced from their homes, UNRWA was founded in 1949.

In order to meet the civic and humanitarian requirements of the 5.9 million descendants of those refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the sizable camps in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, it employs 30,000 Palestinians. About a million Palestinians who have recently been displaced by the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which was started by the October 7 bombings, are being housed in Gaza.


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