UN Agency in Gaza Alleged To Have ‘Blood on Its Hands’ in Aftermath of October 7 Massacre of Israelis

Israeli officials and others say that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has too often been in cahoots with, in Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza and committed the October 7 war crimes.

AP/Tsafrir Abayov
An Israeli army tank moves near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, January 24, 2024. AP/Tsafrir Abayov

The United Nations is struggling to defend its largest operation in Gaza, even as evidence emerges from the fog of war that some agency members were supportive of the October 7 massacre of Israelis and even, some allege, has “blood on its hands.” 

An Israeli tank shell on Wednesday hit a Khan Younes shelter, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens, according to the agency. The shelter was run by the UN Relief and Works Agency. “We deplore” the attack, a Department of State spokesman, Vedant Patel, said.

While the IDF declined to address the incident immediately, it contended that it is dismantling Hamas command and control facilities in a densely populated area.  Even before the fog of war is lifted on the tragic incident, it put a spotlight on Unrwa, which according to Israeli officials and others has since 2007 too often been colluding with the Strip’s oppressive ruler, Hamas.       

“As in many places where we operate in, places where there are de-facto authorities, right, that are just, by fact, are in charge, we deal with them on an operational level,” the UN secretary-general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said Tuesday.

As Israel Defense Forces fight Hamas inside the Strip, it is discovering ties between the terrorist group and Unrwa that seem more extensive than mere “operational level” arrangements. The IDF has documented several cases of card-carrying Unrwa employees also being Hamas commanders.  

“Every Unrwa school we entered had Hamas weapons in it. Each one was a place for Hamas to hide in and fight from,” a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Jonathan Conricus, who until recently served as an IDF spokesman, tells the Sun. 

Last week, a Geneva-based non-governmental watchdog, UN Watch, documented internal group chats on Telegram in which 3,000 Unrwa teachers praised the October 7 massacres. As of yet, calls by the watchdog’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, for an investigation by the UN into the teachers’ conduct have been rebuffed. Mr. Neuer intends to brief Congress on his findings Thursday. 

At first, UN spokesmen denied that these Instagram postings were made by Unrwa staffers. Comments included calls to execute Israeli hostages and approvals of video clippings depicting the October 7 massacre, with messages like, “just wait, sons of Jews.” Yet, after UN Watch published the names and numbers of the participants, Turtle Bay officials indicated they might investigate.  

Meanwhile, the IDF found a number of books glorifying militancy and spreading antisemitism in Unrwa schools. Adjacent to a school at northern Gaza’s Beit Lahia, Israeli troops discovered a makeshift factory manufacturing rockets. The IDF posted numerous pictures of guns and ammunition in classrooms, and it “has much more evidence than has been published, which it intends to air out in coming days,” Mr. Conricus says. 

Worse, he adds, in the early stages of the war, the IDF brass approached Unrwa officials, asking for help in removing civilians from areas where the army planned to wage battle, and usher them to proposed safe zones. The organization made a decision “at the highest levels” to refuse, as Hamas objected to losing human shields. 

“Had Unrwa agreed to the IDF plan, the lives of many civilians could have been spared,” Mr. Conricus says. “Not only did they refuse to cooperate, they actively prevented the creation of safe zones. They have blood on their hands.”

Yet Secretary-General Guterres is adamant that the agency will have a role in Gaza after the war. “Unrwa plays a critical role in supporting many Palestinians on education, on healthcare and other services, and it plays a stabilizing role in the region,” Mr. Dujarric told the Sun, adding that Mr. Guterres “continues to believe that.” 

Nevertheless, “Unrwa has taken the decision to commission an independent review, to look at all the allegations regarding Unrwa and its activities in Gaza,” its commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, told Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wang, last week. 

After UN Watch published the trove of evidence of unethical conduct, Australia demanded an investigation. Under pressure from America’s former UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, America denied funds to Unrwa. President Biden renewed America’s status as the agency’s top donor, contributing nearly $1 billion to its coffers since 2021. 

“Our constituents are horrified that their taxpayer dollars may have, through Unrwa failures, supported Hamas terrorists,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Michael McCaul, wrote last week, inviting Mr. Lazzarini to testify. 

Mr. Lazzarini takes these allegations “very seriously,” the UN spokesman, Mr. Dujarric, says, adding that Unrwa takes “disciplinary action when needed and when things are proven.” As yet, though, Mr. Lazzarini has indicated only that he would investigate “smears” against his agency, Mr. Neuer tells the Sun.


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