UNRWA review says Israel yet to provide evidence staffers are terror group members

File - A protester holds an Israeli flag and a sign while standing with others gathering outside the West Bank field office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Jerusalem on March 20, 2024. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
File - A protester holds an Israeli flag and a sign while standing with others gathering outside the West Bank field office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Jerusalem on March 20, 2024. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

A review of UNRWA says Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence for its claim – based on a staff list it was given in March – that a significant number of UNRWA staff are members of terrorist organizations, in a report which could prompt some donors to review funding freezes.

The report, released this evening, also says that the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has robust frameworks to ensure compliance with humanitarian neutrality principles though issues persist.

The United Nations appointed former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna to lead the UNRWA neutrality review in February after Israel alleged that 12 UNRWA staff took part in Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel which triggered the ongoing war in Gaza.

Israel stepped up its accusations in March, saying over 450 UNRWA staff were military operatives in Gaza terrorist groups.

In a separate investigation, a UN oversight body is looking into the Israeli allegations against the 12 UNRWA staff.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accepted the recommendations, according to his spokesperson, and calls on all countries to actively support UNRWA as it is “a lifeline for Palestine refugees in the region.”

Israel’s allegations against the dozen UNRWA staff led 16 states to pause or suspend funding of $450 million to UNRWA, a blow to an agency grappling with the humanitarian crisis that has swept Gaza since October 7.

Israel has long complained about the agency, founded in 1949 to care for Palestinian refugees. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for UNRWA to be shut down, saying it seeks to preserve the issue of Palestinian refugees.

War erupted in Gaza after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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