Country will seek other organizations for aid delivery

Israel reveals 12 UNRWA staffers it says took part in Oct. 7, says 30 more assisted

Defense minister says 1,500 workers for agency have active ties to terror groups; states UNRWA has 'lost legitimacy and can no longer function as a UN body'

Israeli graphic on 12 UNRWA staffers it alleges participated in the October 7 onslaught.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday publicly revealed the identities of 12 UNRWA staff members who Israel says “actively participated” in the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught on southern Israel.

The attack saw some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border into Israel from Gaza by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages of all ages — mostly civilians — under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

The US and multiple European countries halted aid to UNRWA last month following Israel’s allegations against staffers. Donors such as Britain and the United States have indicated they will not resume support until the UN’s internal investigation into the allegations ends. A preliminary report is due to be published in the next several weeks.

Among the staff who took part in the attacks are teachers who worked at UNRWA schools.

“In addition to these 12 workers, we have significant indications based on intelligence, that over 30 UNRWA workers participated in the massacre, facilitated the taking of hostages, looted and stole from Israeli communities, and more,” Gallant said in a briefing with foreign press.

Gallant said that UNRWA has “lost legitimacy and can no longer function as a UN body,” and said he has therefore instructed the IDF and defense establishment to transfer responsibilities of aid delivery in the Strip to other humanitarian organizations.

Israeli graphic on 12 UNRWA staffers it alleges participated in the October 7 onslaught.

According to Gallant, of the 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza, at least 12% are affiliated with the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups.

“1,468 workers are known to be active in Hamas and PIJ, 185 UNRWA workers are active in the military branches of Hamas and 51 are active in the PIJ military branch,” he said.

The United Nations has announced the creation of an independent panel to assess the agency following the claims. Israel, which provided the evidence of UNRWA members participating in the attack, has said the mandate for the probe is too vague and won’t prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the organization in the future.

Israeli graphic on 12 UNRWA staffers it alleges participated in the October 7 onslaught.

Israel has said Hamas used UNRWA facilities for its own purposes and built parts of its massive underground network of tunnels and military facilities underneath the UN organization’s sites. It recently took multiple media outlets to tour one such operations center under the organization’s headquarters in Gaza City.

Related: Directly beneath UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters, IDF uncovers top-secret Hamas data center

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, denied any knowledge of the Hamas data center found by Israeli troops underneath its Gaza headquarters, but the Israeli military and Foreign Minister Israel Katz immediately cast doubt on his claim.

In a tweet shortly after the findings were published by The Times of Israel and other media outlets, Lazzarini said his organization, UNRWA, “did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza.” He said that the reports “merit an independent inquiry that is currently not possible to undertake given Gaza is an active war zone.”

IDF soldiers inside what the army said was a Hamas data center in a tunnel under a compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) in Gaza City, February 8, 2024 (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

He also said Israel has “not informed UNRWA officially about the alleged tunnel.”

The subterranean data center, seen by The Times of Israel’s military correspondent on Thursday during an Israel Defense Forces media tour, included an electricity room, industrial battery power banks and living quarters for alleged Hamas terrorists operating the computer servers.

“Oh, you knew, ” Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known by its acronym COGAT, tweeted at Lazzarini after the UN agency chief pleaded ignorance. COGAT said that UN officials had been informed of the terror group utilizing the Gaza City headquarters and that the data center had been there before the agency’s staff decamped elsewhere.

“Digging a tunnel takes longer than 4 months. We invited senior UN officials to see, and during past meetings with you and other UN officials, we stated Hamas’s use of UNRWA’s headquarters,” it wrote in a tweet.

“You chose to ignore the facts so you can later try and deny them,” it added.

The foreign minister dismissed Lazzarini’s claim that he was unaware of the presence of the Hamas facility as “not only absurd but also an affront to common sense” and reiterated calls for the UNRWA head to step down.

The allegation that Hamas was running a data center under UNRWA’s nose has added to growing concerns over the level of Hamas infiltration in the agency.

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

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