‘I captured one!’ — IDF recordings show more UNRWA staffers bragging of Oct. 7 crimes

2 further workers accused of taking part in attacks bring number to 14; IDF says intel shows 450 employees are terror operatives; head of UN body warns it is at ‘breaking point’

Palestinians take a kidnapped Israeli civilian, center, from the Nir Oz kibbutz into the Gaza Strip, on October 7, 2023. (Hatem Ali/ AP)
Palestinians take a kidnapped Israeli civilian, center, from the Nir Oz kibbutz into the Gaza Strip, on October 7, 2023. (Hatem Ali/ AP)

The IDF on Monday released audio recordings that it says incriminate two additional UNRWA employees who allegedly participated in the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught — bringing the total number of agency workers that Jerusalem says actively participated in the attacks to 14.

“I’m inside, I’m inside with the Jews,” Mamdouh al-Qali, an Islamic Jihad terrorist whom the IDF says was employed as a teacher in a UNRWA school, is heard saying in one recording.

“How will you get home?” he is asked in the phone call, and he replies with a laugh: “When I die.”

In another recording, an UNRWA teacher can purportedly be heard bragging about kidnapping Israeli hostages.

“We have female hostages, I captured one!” says Yousef al-Hawajara, a Hamas terrorist who worked as a teacher at a UNRWA school in Deir al-Balah, according to the IDF. “Everything’s fine I hope,” he later says in the recording. “We will enter Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

He says that he entered into Israel, and “saw the sights… They shot them in the eyes… they did actions for liberations, God willing.” Asked what he found while in Israel, he says, “One thousand shekels.”

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in an evening press conference said that despite the “difficult content,” the military chose to release the audio recordings to “remind and not forget.”

“The massacre committed by Hamas on October 7 is the most documented massacre in history. Hamas terrorists filmed their own cruelty. As time goes by, more and more testimonies are revealed, more intelligence every day,” he said.

He said that in one of the recordings, a Hamas terrorist, who worked as a teacher at a UNRWA school in Deir al-Balah, tells his friend that he captured a “sabaya,” a term used by Islamic State jihadists which means sex slave.

“The most difficult use of ‘sabaya’ was by ISIS terrorists, who called the captured Yazidi women [in Iraq and Syria] this,” Hagari added.

“In the conversation, the terrorist on the other side of the line describes a woman as a noble mare,” he said.

Such comments “keeps us awake at night, and require the world to shout, as it did for the Yazidi women.”

Hagari added that from testimonies of hostages who were released from Gaza, “we have learned about the dangers the hostages are exposed to, especially the women and children.”

Last month, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant named 12 other UNRWA staffers whom it said participated in the massacre on October 7. The IDF said its intelligence shows that some 450 terror operatives in Gaza, mostly Hamas members, are also employed by UNRWA.

Jerusalem has long argued that UNRWA should be disbanded, and the recent allegations have led several donor countries to announce funding freezes, increasing concerns that the agency, which says it is the main conduit for aid for millions in the Strip during the Israel-Hamas war, could stop operating in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East within weeks.

The head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, warned on Monday in a letter to the General Assembly’s president that his agency is at a “breaking point,” as donors freeze funding, Israel exerts pressure to dismantle the agency, and humanitarian needs soar.

UNRWA’s ability to carry out its mandate is “seriously threatened,” Lazzarini said, urging member states to “provide the political support necessary to sustain” the agency.

File: A woman and a child walk past an UNRWA school housing displaced Palestinians in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on February 26, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Lazzarini has said that Israel has provided no evidence against his former employees. Last month, Israel revealed the identities of 12 UNRWA staffers who it said “actively participated” in the massacre.

Despite Lazzarini’s assertion, the UN fired the employees accused by Israel and has begun an internal probe.

Some hostages, who were released from Gaza during a weeklong truce in November, said that they were held in the homes of UNRWA members.

The IDF also revealed in February that Hamas hid a large subterranean data center directly under the UNRWA Gaza headquarters building in Gaza City. An entrance to the stronghold was found underneath a nearby UNRWA school.

Several countries — including the United States, Britain, Germany, and Japan — suspended funding to UNRWA following the Israeli allegations. The total frozen amounts to $450 million — the equivalent of more than half the funds UNRWA received in 2023.

Israeli soldiers take position as they enter UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City where the military discovered tunnels and a secret data center underneath the UN agency, February 8, 2024. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also tasked an independent panel with assessing whether UNRWA acts in a neutral fashion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The European Commission, recognizing steps taken by the UN and its refugee agency, said Friday that it would release 50 million euros ($54 million) in UNRWA funding.

The United States — the top contributor to the chronically underfinanced agency — was among the first countries to suspend aid. It diverted some funds to other UN agencies.

But Guterres has insisted that no other agency has the capacity to replace UNRWA, which, in addition to providing humanitarian aid, manages schools and hospitals.

NGOs including Save the Children and Action Against Hunger made the same point in a joint statement, warning of the “complete collapse” of the humanitarian response in Gaza, where food and water shortages are widespread.

UNRWA employs some 30,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria — with some 13,000 of them in the Gaza Strip.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: