Several countries have paused aid to the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees following Israel’s terror accusations.
But there is a lack of clear evidence for the accusations.
This is stated by the British Channel 4, which reviewed the Israeli data.
15 of the largest donor countries, including Sweden, have paused aid to the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, in recent days.
The decisions were taken following accusations by Israel that 12 Unrwa employees were involved in the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October.
Nine people have been fired and a UN investigation is underway.
Now the British public service company has Channel 4 reviewed the evidence presented by Israeli security services.
It mainly concerns a number of documents, which were distributed to the donor countries shortly after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision that Israel must do everything to prevent genocide in Gaza – and let in more emergency aid.
The documents repeat the Israeli military’s accusations that Hamas “methodically and deliberately built its terror infrastructure in a large number of UN buildings and operations.”
However, reports Channel 4, there is no concrete evidence for the new allegations, which read: “Based on intelligence information, documents and ID cards seized during fighting, it is now possible to flag about 190 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists working as Unrwa employees. More than 10 Unrwa staff attended the 7 October events”.
full screen Protests against Unwra in Jersusalem. Photo: Mahmoud Illean / AP
May violate international law
Christoffer Gunnes, former spokesperson at UNRWA, tells Channel 4 that those who have paused donations based on unconfirmed allegations risk violating the UN Genocide Convention.
– It is a violation of international humanitarian law. It is a violation of international principles. It is a violation of the decision of the ICJ that no one should obstruct international humanitarian aid.
UNRWA Commissioner Philippe Lazzarini has told the Financial Times that the accusations from Israel follow a long tradition, and that the political establishment has always wanted to dismantle UNRWA with the argument that the UN agency rather contributed to the deepening of the conflict, instead of a solution.
As recently as last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that UNRWA is “totally infiltrated by Hamas” and that the agency must be shut down.
Unrwa has repeatedly pointed out that every year a list of all employees is sent to Israel for verification, and has never received any complaints about the list.
At the same time, it has been underlined that the new accusations are taken very seriously, and pointed out that this is why nine employees were fired before the UN investigation was completed.
Might put it down soon
Unrwa, which is the largest aid organization in Gaza, is now warning that it may have to close all operations at the end of February because aid has decreased.
It is believed to have life-threatening consequences.
– We will have to decide who gets to live and who has to die. Such a scenario will be a catastrophic failure for the international community, Thomas White, head of UNRWA in Gaza, told New York Times.
fullscreen Israeli military in Gaza. Photo: Ariel Schalit / AP
FACT This is Unrwa
The UN agency Unrwa (United Nations Relief and Works agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East) was founded in 1949, after the war that broke out with the creation of Israel in 1948, with the aim of helping the more than 750,000 Palestinians who were forced to flee.
Today, Unrwa helps around 5.9 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, mainly with school education (58 percent of the budget) and health-related issues (15 percent of the budget).
Around 90 percent of Unrwa’s donations come from UN member countries.
The biggest support has come from (in order of magnitude) the USA, Germany, the EU, Sweden and Norway.
UNRWA in Gaza has over 13,000 employees. Of Gaza’s next 2.3 million residents, close to 1.5 million relied on aid from UNRWA, according to statistics from August 2023. Since Israel declared war on Hamas following the terror-labeled group’s attacks on the country on October 7, 2023, the figure is even higher.
Between 1.7 and 1.9 million people in Gaza are currently taking shelter in UN buildings or refugee camps.
Sources: UN and UNRWA
Read moreFACT What are they accused of?
Israel has stated that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the October 7 terrorist attacks on Israel in which Hamas killed nearly 1,200 people and took around 240 hostages. One of the twelve is accused of having kidnapped a woman, another of having participated in a massacre on a kibbutz, a third is said to have distributed ammunition, reports New York Times.
Israel has also claimed that around ten percent of UNRWA’s staff in Gaza are Hamas members, according to the Wall Street Journal. Membership is prohibited for Unrwa employees, although this does not automatically mean being in the military branch.
The Israeli security service is said to have cross-checked personnel lists from UNRWA with a register of Hamas members found on a computer in Gaza. Tracking and wiretapping are also said to have taken place.
Sources: TT, New York Times, Wall Street Journal.