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22 Apr, 2024 21:19

Israel failed to prove UN agency was complicit in terrorism – report

West Jerusalem’s allegations triggered an exodus of Western money from a critical relief agency
Israel failed to prove UN agency was complicit in terrorism – report

Israel gave no evidence to support its claims that UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) staffers aided Hamas’ October 7 attack on the Jewish state, an independent review commissioned by the UN has found.

The Israeli government claimed in January that a dozen UNRWA employees took part in the attack, in which the militant group killed around 1,100 people in Israel and took around 250 hostages to Gaza. West Jerusalem also claimed that 190 UNRWA staffers provided intelligence and logistical support to the attackers, and allowed Hamas to use the agency’s facilities as safehouses.

An independent committee led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna found no evidence to support these claims, according to a report published on Monday.

“Israel made public claims that a significant number of UNRWA employees are members of terrorist organizations. However, Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence of this,” the report read. 

In a separate report, three Nordic research groups assisting Colonna’s probe noted that “Israeli authorities have to date not provided any supporting evidence nor responded to letters from UNRWA in March, and again in April, requesting the names and supporting evidence that would enable UNRWA to open an investigation.”

Colonna’s investigation found that UNRWA regularly shares lists of its employees with Israeli authorities, and that West Jerusalem has not raised any concerns about the agency’s staffing since 2011.

UNRWA employs more than 30,000 people and provides food aid, healthcare, education, and social services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as those seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Over two million people “depend on it for their survival amidst one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at a briefing in February.

Despite being unsubstantiated, Israel’s accusations caused 18 donor nations to withdraw funding from UNRWA. While a majority have since resumed support for the agency, six have kept their money on hold. Among them are the US, UK, and Germany.

While US intelligence agencies have expressed “low confidence” in Israel’s claims, Washington will maintain a freeze on UNRWA funding until next March. The US is UNRWA’s largest backer, and has donated $121 million to the agency since October 1. Prior to the funding suspension, another $300,000 had been set aside for the agency this year, according to the US State Department.