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10% of UNRWA staffers in Gaza linked to terror, Israel intel says as UN chief urges funding reversal

An Israeli official said that 190 staffers were "hardened fighters, killers."

Published: January 29, 2024 12:50pm

About 10% of staffers at a United Nations agency in Gaza are connected to terrorist groups, in addition to the at least 12 employees who allegedly participated in the deadly Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel, according to a new Israeli intelligence report Monday that comes as U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres is urging countries that have temporarily suspended funding to the agency to reverse their decisions.

Israel initially accused 12 U.N. Relief and Works Agency staffers of participating in the Oct. 7 massacre, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people and the kidnappings of 250 others, and the U.N. agency said Friday it would launch an investigation and "immediately terminate the contracts" of the implicated employees. The U.N. later said that nine individuals were immediately terminated, one is confirmed to be dead and the identities of two are still being clarified. 

In response, multiple countries, including the United States, cut funding to UNRWA.

Subsequently, a new Israeli intelligence report emerged Monday linking 10% of the approximately 12,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza to terror groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the roughly 10% of UNRWA employees allegedly connected to terror organizations, about 190 UNRWA employees, including teachers, are accused of being full Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants, Reuters reported Monday, citing an Israeli intelligence dossier.

An Israeli official told the wire service that the 190 staffers in the dossier were "hardened fighters, killers."

As a growing number of countries have temporarily suspended funding to the agency, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres is asking the nations to reverse their positions. 

"The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences. But the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized," Guterres said. "The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met."

The extremism problem may still be more widespread than indicated in Israeli intelligence reports. 

UN Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog, released a report earlier this month detailing how UNRWA teachers in a 3,000-member staff Telegram group celebrated and cheered the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. 

UNRWA has a long history of problematic employees. In 2022, the agency placed six teachers on administrative leave after another UN Watch report found they were publicly encouraging the murder of Jews.  

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