The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) announced Friday that it had opened an investigation into several employees suspected of being involved in the October 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas-led militants and had severed ties with them. Staff.
“Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information on the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks against Israel on October 7,” said Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner General.
“In order to protect the agency’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance, I have made the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation to establish the truth without delay.”
Lazzarini did not reveal the number of employees believed to be involved in the attacks, or the nature of their alleged involvement. However, he clarified that “any UNRWA employee involved in acts of terrorism” would be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.
An UNRWA spokesperson did not provide further details on the situation.
Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said the federal government had suspended additional funding to UNRWA while the allegations were investigated.
Hussen said he spoke directly with Lazzarini on Friday to express Canada’s concern over the allegations.
“Canada takes these reports extremely seriously and is working closely with UNRWA and other donors on this issue,” he said in a statement.
Canada unequivocally condemns the October 7 attack on Israel. I am deeply disturbed by the allegations regarding certain UNRWA employees. I have asked Global Affairs Canada to suspend any additional funding to UNRWA pending the results of the investigation. Read my statement: pic.twitter.com/YfEbwhKvzx
The US State Department said it was extremely troubled by the allegations, which it said concerned 12 UNRWA employees. He said he would not provide any additional funding to the agency until the allegations are addressed.
“The State Department has temporarily suspended additional funding to UNRWA while we review these allegations and the actions the United Nations is taking to respond to them,” spokesman Matthew Miller said.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he would “evaluate further measures and draw lessons based on the results of a full and thorough investigation.”
Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy accused UNRWA of announcing the news while the world’s attention was focused on the problem. International Court of Justice orders Israel to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians and do more to help civilians in Gaza.
“On any other day, this would have made headlines: Israel presents evidence of UN employees’ complicity with Hamas,” Levy wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
UN chief ‘horrified’
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, has been informed of the allegations, his spokesperson said.
“The secretary general is horrified by this news,” said Stéphane Dujarric.
Dujarric said the UN chief had asked Lazzarini to lead an investigation to ensure that any UNRWA employee who participated in or encouraged the October 7 attacks were immediately fired and referred for possible criminal prosecution.
“An urgent and comprehensive independent assessment of UNRWA will be conducted,” Dujarric said.
UNRWA, whose largest donors in 2022 were the United States, Germany and the European Union, has repeatedly said its ability to provide humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza is on the verge of collapse. ‘collapse.
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Agency created in 1949
UNRWA, officially called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli War. It provides services including schooling, primary health care and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Israeli authorities, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have accused the agency of fueling incitement to anti-Israeli hatred, allegations it denies.
UNRWA has provided aid and used its facilities to shelter people fleeing bombings and Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza following the October 7 attacks, in which Israel says around 1,200 people were killed and around 250 taken hostage.
The Israeli offensive has ravaged much of the densely populated Gaza Strip and killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to the territory’s health officials.