UN aid agency fires 12 employees suspected of taking part in October 7 attacks by Hamas


The UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees has launched a probe into 12 employees suspected of being involved in the Hamas October 7 terror attacks.

Announcing it had opened the investigation, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said on Friday that is had also severed ties with the suspected staff members.

While Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General, did not specify how many employees were implicated in the scandal, the US State Department said that 12 employees were involved. 

‘The Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on October 7,’ said Lazzarini. 

‘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,’ he added. 

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General, (pictured) did not specify how many employees were implicated in the scandal

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General, (pictured) did not specify how many employees were implicated in the scandal

The October 7 attack, committed by Hamas terrorists, left 1,200 Israelis dead

The October 7 attack, committed by Hamas terrorists, left 1,200 Israelis dead 

‘Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.

‘UNRWA reiterates its condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the abhorrent attacks of 7 October and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages and their safe return to their families.

‘These shocking allegations come as more than 2 million people in Gaza depend on lifesaving assistance that the Agency has been providing since the war began.

‘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’.

Lazzarini did not disclose the number of employees allegedly involved in the attacks, nor the nature of their alleged involvement. 

Israel's offensive has laid waste to much of the densely populated Gaza Strip and killed more than 26,000 Palestinians

Israel’s offensive has laid waste to much of the densely populated Gaza Strip and killed more than 26,000 Palestinians

Smoke rises following Israeli air strike in Al Bureije refugee camp during Isreali military operation in southern Gaza Strip

Smoke rises following Israeli air strike in Al Bureije refugee camp during Isreali military operation in southern Gaza Strip

A spokesperson for UNRWA would not provide further detail on the situation.

Minutes after the statement was issued, the US State Department said it had ‘temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA’ as it investigates the allegations. 

A statement from the department said that Anthony Blinken, the US’ top diplomat, had spoken to the UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres, who was separately briefed about the crisis, to push for a ‘thorough and swift investigation.’

The US is one of UNRWA’s biggest donors, having sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money to assist its efforts. 

Last June, the US sent $153.7 million to UNRWA in a single donation, which Lazzarini said at the time was enough to keep ‘over 700 schools and 140 health centres open over the next months.’

The previous year, the US was the largest donor to UNRWA, contributing a total of $344 million in 2022. 

An unexploded missile is seen stuck between two houses of Al Nusairat refugee camp during Israeli operations in the southern Gaza Strip

An unexploded missile is seen stuck between two houses of Al Nusairat refugee camp during Israeli operations in the southern Gaza Strip

UNRWA, whose biggest donors in 2022 included the United States, Germany and the European Union, has repeatedly said its capacity to render humanitarian assistance to people in Gaza is on the verge of collapse

UNRWA, whose biggest donors in 2022 included the United States, Germany and the European Union, has repeatedly said its capacity to render humanitarian assistance to people in Gaza is on the verge of collapse

UNRWA has provided aid and used its facilities to shelter people fleeing bombardment and a ground offensive launched by Israel in Gaza

UNRWA has provided aid and used its facilities to shelter people fleeing bombardment and a ground offensive launched by Israel in Gaza

The UK has also sent significant sums of money to the agency. In September, former foreign secretary James Cleverly announced a £10 million aid package for UNRWA. 

MailOnline has contacted the UK’s Foreign Office for comment. 

A UN spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said the global organisation’s head was ‘horrified by this news.’

Dujarric added that the UN chief had asked Lazzarini to conduct a probe to ensure that any UNRWA employee shown to have participated or abetted the October 7 attacks be terminated immediately and referred for potential criminal prosecution.

‘An urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA will be conducted,’ Dujarric added.

UNRWA, established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, provides services including schooling, primary healthcare and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

UNRWA has provided aid and used its facilities to shelter people fleeing bombardment and a ground offensive launched by Israel in Gaza following the October 7 attacks, in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage.

‘These shocking allegations come as more than 2 million people in Gaza depend on lifesaving assistance that the agency has been providing since the war began,’ Lazzarini said.

Israel’s offensive has laid waste to much of the densely populated Gaza Strip and killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to health officials in the territory.

UNRWA, whose biggest donors in 2022 included the United States, Germany and the European Union, has repeatedly said its capacity to render humanitarian assistance to people in Gaza is on the verge of collapse.

The diplomatic missions of the United States, Germany and the European Union in Geneva had no immediate comment.



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