UN workers helped Hamas kidnap Israelis – NYT
Several aid workers with the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA helped kidnap Israelis and arm Hamas during its attack on October 7, the New York Times claimed on Sunday citing the contents of a secret Israeli government report.
The dossier allegedly details Israel’s claims about 12 UNRWA employees said to have been involved in the raid. Seven were teachers with the agency and two more worked at its schools in other capacities, while the other three were a clerk, social worker, and storeroom manager. Ten of the workers were also allegedly members of Hamas, whose civilian wing remains the legally elected government of Gaza despite its classification as a terrorist group by Israel, while another was said to be affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
A school counselor from Khan Younis supposedly worked with his son to kidnap an Israeli woman, while a social worker from Nuseirat reportedly removed a dead Israeli soldier’s body back to Gaza and helped distribute vehicles and ammunition ahead of the raid. Another three men allegedly received text messages summoning them to meeting points on October 7, with one ordered to bring rocket-propelled grenades.
Two US officials told the New York Times that while they had been briefed on the Israeli allegations, they had not verified the details. Washington was nevertheless first to cut off UNRWA’s funding on Friday, followed by Canada and over half a dozen more on Saturday.
Because UNRWA lacks any emergency cash reserves, it may have to curtail the vital services it provides to some 5 million Palestinians starting in February. The funding cutoff comes at a precarious time for Gaza’s residents, many of whom already face hunger and starvation. Over 85% of them have been displaced from their homes since the war began, according to the UN.
Israel’s accusations came just days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to take action to prevent genocide in Gaza, including by allowing more aid deliveries to reach the territory’s besieged residents. While the ruling indicated the court found South Africa’s genocide case against Israel to have some merit, it stopped short of issuing an immediate demand for a ceasefire.
Israel had been sitting on the information regarding the UNRWA workers for weeks, three unnamed diplomats told Israel Hayom on Saturday, claiming the government had kept it quiet because “there was an understanding in the Israeli political system that UNRWA must be preserved in Gaza, because it is the only functioning body in Gaza and without it, the chaos would be even greater.”
However, Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Saturday called for UNRWA to be “replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development,” demanding the resignation of its director, and Israel has previously claimed the agency is a Hamas front.
The UN launched a probe into the allegations, and immediately terminated staff members suspected of terrorist activity, but Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Western nations not to penalize all relief workers indiscriminately.