U.N. Agency in Gaza Fires Employees, Tel Aviv, Israel — The main United Nations agency that provides help to Palestinians in Gaza has fired several employees following charges that they were complicit in Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, which killed over 1,200 people in Israel.
U.N. Agency in Gaza Fires Employees Over Alleged Involvement in Oct. 7 Attack
“The Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on 7 October,” said Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations organization that provides help to Palestinian refugees, in a statement.
“To protect the Agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have decided to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation to establish the truth without delay.”
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded “an urgent investigation by UNRWA regarding the involvement of its employees in the terrorist events of 10/7.”
“It is important that UNRWA conduct a thorough internal inspection regarding the activities of Hamas and other terrorist elements in its ranks to ensure that the organization’s humanitarian activities are not abused,” the agency stated in a statement.
Neither Israel nor the United Nations quickly released any information about the charges against UNRWA staff.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked with UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday about the recent allegations of U.N. workers’ involvement in the Oct. 7 attack, urging a thorough and prompt inquiry.
According to the US State Department, twelve UNRWA personnel were reportedly engaged, and the agency’s financing has been temporarily suspended “while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”
UNRWA plays an important role in assisting Palestinians in escaping the Gaza conflict. The agency estimates that up to 1.9 million people are seeking refuge in or near its facilities, which include schools and relief warehouses. UNRWA has also coordinated convoys of food and medical supplies into Gaza.
The agency’s facilities have often come under assault during the war. Most recently, on January 24, a building within UNRWA’s training center in Khan Younis was hit by shells. According to the organization, the building housed approximately 800 displaced individuals, and the tragedy resulted in at least 13 deaths and 56 injuries.
Israel’s military, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has denied involvement in the incident. “After an evaluation of our operational systems, the IDF has currently ruled out the possibility that this incident was caused by an IDF aircraft or artillery strike. A detailed examination of the operations of the forces in the area is currently underway,” it stated in a statement.
Heavy fighting in Khan Younis has killed and injured dozens of civilians in recent days, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It believes that more than 26,000 people have died in Gaza since the conflict began. The total comprises both combatants and civilians.
According to the ministry, women and children make up the vast majority of those killed. In his statement, UNRWA’s Lazzarini described the charges against agency personnel as “shocking.”
“More than 2 million people in Gaza depend on lifesaving assistance that the Agency has been providing since the war began,” he went on to say. “Anyone who betrays the fundamental values of the United Nations also betrays those whom we serve in Gaza, across the region, and elsewhere around the world.”
Michele Kelemen of NPR contributed to this report from Washington, while Eve Guterman and Alon Avital contributed from Tel Aviv, Israel.