Netanyahu tells UN envoys UNRWA is ‘totally infiltrated’ by Hamas, must be replaced

PM says a humanitarian agency is needed in Gaza, but UNRWA can’t play role, after employees accused of taking part in Hamas-led Oct. 7 massacre

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3rd left) hosts a meeting of UN ambassadors in Jerusalem, January 31, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3rd left) hosts a meeting of UN ambassadors in Jerusalem, January 31, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has been “totally infiltrated” by the Hamas terror group, after several countries suspended funding after Israeli accused UNRWA staffers of having participated in the October 7 massacre.

“UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas,” Netanyahu told a meeting of UN ambassadors in Jerusalem, adding that “we need to get other UN agencies and other aid agencies replacing UNRWA.”

Netanyahu’s comments came as UNRWA said it was “extremely important” to conduct an independent investigation into Israeli allegations that 12 of its employees were involved in the October 7 Hamas onslaught against Israel.

Following these allegations important donors — among them Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States — have announced their suspension of aid to UNRWA, which serves as a key lifeline for Palestinians living in Gaza.

“It (UNRWA) has been in the service of Hamas, in its schools and many other things,” Netanyahu said at the meeting, video footage of which was released by the government press office.

“I say this with great regret because we hoped that there would be an objective and constructive body to offer aid. We need such a body today in Gaza, but UNRWA is not that body.”

A dossier purportedly disseminated by Israel alleges that 12 employees of the UN agency took part in the deadly onslaught in which terrorists murdered close to 1,200 Israelis and took another 253 captive in Gaza. The allegations claim that one of the 12 men implicated was an UNRWA teacher accused of being armed with an anti-tank missile, while another teacher had been accused of filming a hostage being taken captive on October 7.

Another of the staffers, also an elementary school teacher, allegedly served as a Hamas commander and participated in the massacre in Kibbutz Be’eri, while a man employed by UNRWA as a social worker was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of an IDF soldier’s body on that day.

The 12 staffers at UNRWA alleged to have been involved in the October 7 onslaught. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Of the 12 UNRWA workers accused of participating in the October 7 massacre, seven were reportedly teachers, two were educational consultants and others were humanitarian aid warehouse managers.

Despite Netanyahu’s remarks, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel Tuesday that it is not in Israel’s interests for UNRWA to cease operations during the war, as it “could cause a humanitarian catastrophe that would force Israel to halt its fighting against Hamas,” but in the long term, the agency should be booted from the Strip.

A second Israeli official separately confirmed a Wall Street Journal report revealing that in addition to the 12 UNRWA staffers who allegedly took part in the October 7 atrocities, roughly 1,200 employees — 10% of the Gaza staff — are either tied to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to Israeli intelligence.

“Hamas is obviously going to infiltrate an organization operating in an area under its control. It would be surprising if it wasn’t the case,” the second official said.

UN agencies Wednesday issued a joint statement warning of “catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza” if key donor countries don’t resume funding for UNRWA.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the allegations against those individuals are “highly, highly credible.”

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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