Israel says UNRWA probe mandate into findings of staff participation in Oct. 7 too vague

Israel warns the mandate of an investigation into allegations that UN staff participated in Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attacks was too vague, but said it would cooperate.

Earlier this month, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres announced the creation of an independent panel to assess UNRWA, the UN agency tasked with helping Palestinian refugees.

The embattled agency had come under fire over accusations that 12 of its staff members were involved in the deadliest-ever attack inside Israel on October 7 last year.

“We plan to cooperate with the investigation,” Israeli ambassador Meirav Shahar tells reporters in Geneva.

But she warned that “the mandate as it stands right now is too wide.”

“This is not a mandate that helps to check to ensure how you don’t deploy terrorists in the future, how you don’t have… hundreds of tunnels under UNRWA schools, under their main headquarters.”

“The mandate needs to be more concise,” she says, calling for the probe to also include experts who can look into UNRWA’s counter-terrorism and vetting procedures.

The new independent panel, which will be led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, is due to begin its two-month investigation on Wednesday.

Israel has called for UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini to step down following claims that a Hamas tunnel had been discovered under its evacuated Gaza City headquarters.

Lazzarini, who briefed member state representatives in Geneva on the situation today, has stressed that his agency had not operated from the compound since October 12, and has said he has no intention to resign.

Earlier today, he called for an independent investigation into both the Hamas tunnels and strikes on more than 150 of the UN agency’s installations in Gaza since the war erupted more than four months ago.

He also warned that dismantling UNRWA, as Israel has called for, would be a “disaster” at a time of crisis in the Palestinian territory.

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