U.N. agency in Gaza fires employees over alleged involvement in Oct. 7 attack

United Nations and Red Crescent workers prepare aid for distribution to Palestinians at a UNRWA warehouse in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. says 12 UNRWA employees were involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Hassan Eslaiah/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Hassan Eslaiah/AP

United Nations and Red Crescent workers prepare aid for distribution to Palestinians at a UNRWA warehouse in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. says 12 UNRWA employees were involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Hassan Eslaiah/AP

TEL AVIV, Israel — The main United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza has fired multiple employees following allegations that they were involved in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed some 1,200 people in Israel.

“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,” Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, said in a statement.

4 things to know about UNRWA, Gaza's largest aid organization

“To protect the Agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.”

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for “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 in order to ensure that the organization’s humanitarian activities are not abused,” it said in a statement.

Neither Israel nor the United Nations immediately provided further details on the allegations against UNRWA employees.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini called the allegations “shocking” in a statement and called for an investigation.

John Minchillo/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

John Minchillo/AP

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini called the allegations “shocking” in a statement and called for an investigation.

John Minchillo/AP

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Thursday to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres about the current allegations of U.N. workers’ involvement in Oct. 7 and urged a thorough and swift investigation.

Twelve UNRWA employees were allegedly involved, according to the U.S. State Department, which also said it has temporarily paused additional funding for the U.N. agency “while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”

UNRWA plays a critical role in supporting Palestinians fleeing the war in Gaza. The agency estimates that up to 1.9 million people are sheltering in or near its facilities, which include schools and aid warehouses. UNRWA also has been coordinating convoys of food and medical supplies into Gaza.

Facilities run by the agency have repeatedly come under fire in the war. Most recently, on Jan. 24, a building inside UNRWA’s training center in Khan Younis was struck by shells. The agency said that the building housed some 800 displaced people, and that at least 13 people were killed and 56 injured in the incident.

'It felt like my head burst': Survivors recount attack on U.N. facility

Israel’s military, known as the Israel Defense Force or IDF, has denied involvement in that incident. “After an examination of our operational systems, the IDF has currently ruled out that this incident is a result of an aerial or artillery strike by the IDF. A thorough review of the operations of the forces in the vicinity is underway,” it said in a statement.

Heavy fighting in Khan Younis has killed and wounded dozens of people in recent days, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. It estimates that over 26,000 people have died in Gaza since the war began. The total numbers of deaths includes both combatants and civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.

In his statement UNRWA’s Lazzarini said he was “shocked” by the allegations against the agency employees.

“More than 2 million people in Gaza depend on lifesaving assistance that the Agency has been providing since the war began,” he said. “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.”

NPR’s Michele Kelemen contributed to this report from Washington, and Eve Guterman and Alon Avital contributed from Tel Aviv.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *