Independent review finds Israel failed to produce evidence to back up claims against UNRWA employees – report

Activists protest against United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) outside their offices in Jerusalem, March 20, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Activists protest against United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) outside their offices in Jerusalem, March 20, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has failed to provide evidence of claims that UNRWA workers in Gaza have ties to terrorist organizations, the Guardian newspaper alleges, citing the findings of an independent panel that has been conducting a review into the allegations presented by Israel in the aftermath of Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught.

The independent review process dubbed the Colonna review was set up in February by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna after at least 15 countries froze their funding for the humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees.

This came following allegations by Israel that at least 12 employees of the UN body for Palestinian refugees were directly involved in the October 7 atrocities perpetrated by Hamas; another 30 assisted or facilitated those crimes; and as much as 12 percent of the organization’s staff were affiliated with terror organizations.

According to the Guardian — which obtained a copy of the panel’s findings ahead of publication later today — Israel receives a regularly updated list of UNRWA’s staff members in order to vet them yet has not raised concerns about any names that have appeared on the list since 2011.

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

The review reportedly finds UNRWA to be “irreplaceable and indispensable” to Palestinians in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, and says that while stronger safeguarding mechanisms could be implemented to ensure neutrality, the UN body already has a significant screening process in place in order to “ensure compliance with the humanitarian principles.”

Furthermore, the review is reported to add that UNRWA “possesses a more developed approach to neutrality than other similar UN or NGO entities.”

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