Home World Details Emerge on U.N. Workers Accused of Aiding Hamas Raid

Details Emerge on U.N. Workers Accused of Aiding Hamas Raid

Details Emerge on U.N. Workers Accused of Aiding Hamas Raid


One is accused of kidnapping a woman. Another is said to have handed out ammunition. A third was described as taking part in the massacre at a kibbutz where 97 people died. And all were said to be employees of the United Nations aid agency that schools, shelters and feeds hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The accusations are contained in a dossier provided to the United States government that details Israel’s claims against a dozen employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency who, it says, played a role in the Hamas attacks against Israel on Oct. 7 or in their aftermath.

The U.N. said on Friday that it had fired several employees after being briefed on the allegations. But little was known about the accusations until the dossier was reviewed on Sunday by The New York Times.

The accusations are what prompted eight countries, including the United States, to suspend some aid payment to the UNRWA, as the agency is known, even as war plunges Palestinians in Gaza into desperate straits. More than 26,000 people have been killed there and nearly two million displaced, according to Gazan and U.N. officials.

The UNRWA workers have been accused of helping Hamas stage the attack that set off the war in Gaza, or of aiding it in the days after. Some 1,200 people in Israel were killed that day, Israeli officials say, and about 240 were abducted and taken to Gaza.

On Sunday, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, described himself as “horrified by these accusations” and noted that nine of the 12 accused employees had been fired. But Mr. Guterres implored those nations that had suspended their aid payments to reconsider. UNRWA is one of the largest employers in Gaza, with 13,000 people, mostly Palestinians, on staff.

Asked about Israel’s allegations on Sunday, UNRWA said that two of the 12 employees were dead but that it could not provide more information while the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services was still investigating.

Two Western officials confirmed on the condition of anonymity that they had been briefed on the contents of the dossier in recent days, but said they had not been able to verify the details. Although the United States has yet to corroborate the Israeli claims itself, American officials say they found them credible enough to warrant suspending aid.

The Times verified the identity of one of the 12 employees, a storeroom manager, whose social media profile lists him as an UNRWA employee and shows him wearing U.N.-branded clothes.

The Israeli dossier, presented to U.S. officials on Friday, lists the names and jobs of the UNRWA employees and the allegations against them.

The dossier said that Israeli intelligence officers had established the movements of six of the men inside Israel on Oct. 7 based on their phones; others had been monitored while making phone calls inside Gaza during which, the Israelis say, they discussed their involvement in the Hamas attack.

Three others got text messages ordering them to report to muster points on Oct. 7, and one was told to bring rocket-propelled grenades stored at his home, according to the dossier.

The Israelis described 10 of the employees as members of Hamas, the militant group that controlled Gaza at the time of the Oct. 7 attack. Another was said to be affiliated with another militant group, Islamic Jihad.

Yet seven of the accused were also said to be teachers at UNRWA schools, instructing students in subjects like math and Arabic. Two others worked at the schools in other capacities. The remaining three were described as a clerk, a social worker and the storeroom manager.

The most detailed accusations in the dossier concerned a school counselor from Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, who is accused of working with his son to abduct a woman from Israel.

A social worker from Nuseirat, in central Gaza, is accused of helping to bring the body of a dead Israeli soldier to Gaza, as well as distributing ammunition and coordinating vehicles on the day of the attack.

The Israeli accusations come against the backdrop of decades-long frictions with UNRWA. Since 1949, the agency has cared for the families of Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the wars surrounding the creation of the state of Israel.

The organization provides vital aid to more than five million Palestinian refugees scattered across the Middle East, whose future and status have never been resolved despite years of negotiations.

But to its critics, including many Israelis, the agency is an obstacle to resolving the conflict. Its very existence, they say, prevents Palestinian refugees from integrating into new communities and stokes their dreams of one day returning to what is now Israel — a goal that Israel says it will never allow. And in Gaza, Israel argues, UNRWA has fallen under the influence of Hamas, a claim the agency rejects.

This is not the first time the United States has cut off money to the U.N. agency. The Trump administration suspended aid as part its efforts to pressure the Palestinian leadership to stop demanding that refugees be allowed to return to Israel.

But the current threat to its funding is considered to be the gravest in its history because it comes at a time of crisis for Gaza.

Amid warnings of famine, the collapse of the health system and the massive displacement of the Palestinian population, UNRWA’s work is considered more important than ever. It helps coordinate the distribution of the supplies of aid — however meager — that arrive each day in southern Gaza, and its schools provide shelter to more than a million Gazans, according to the agency’s statistics.

The funding suspensions may be felt quickly. Unlike other U.N. agencies, UNRWA has no strategic financial reserve. On Sunday, Mr. Guterres said services might need to be reduced beginning in February.

A day earlier, the agency’s commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini, warned of impending catastrophe.

“It would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region,” he said.

“The lives of people in Gaza depend on this support, and so does regional stability,” Mr. Lazzarini said.

The State Department on Friday acknowledged the critical humanitarian role played by UNRWA but said it was suspending its funding while it assessed both the allegations and the agency’s response to them.

Israeli officials themselves were concerned on Sunday about whether their accusations might in the end make their own position more difficult, according to three officials involved in the discussion. A collapse in the delivery of services to Gaza could force Israel to shoulder a greater role in running aid distribution — a role it does not want.

Reports about the accusations against the aid workers came on the same day that the International Court of Justice issued an interim ruling on accusations of genocide that have been leveled against Israel by South Africa. The court ordered Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide by its forces in Gaza and to allow more aid into the territory.

Reporting was contributed by Johnatan Reiss, Julian E. Barnes, Gabby Sobelman and Myra Noveck.


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