At least 190 UNRWA staff are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives, Israel claims, as the UN


An Israeli intelligence dossier that prompted a cascade of countries to halt funds for a U.N. Palestinian aid agency includes allegations that some staff took part in abductions and killings during the October 7 raid that sparked the Gaza war.

The six-page dossier also alleges that some 190 UNRWA employees, including teachers, have doubled as Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants. It has names and pictures for 11 them.

The Palestinians have accused Israel of falsifying information to tarnish UNRWA, which says it has fired some staffers and is investigating the allegations.

Meanwhile the UN aid agency has said the decision by Britain, the US and others to pause their funding ‘will have serious repercussions in Gaza‘.

One of the 11 is a school counsellor accused in the Israeli dossier of providing unspecified assistance to his son in the abduction of a woman during the Hamas infiltration in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 kidnapped.

Another, an UNRWA social worker, is accused of unspecified involvement in the transfer to Gaza of a slain Israeli soldier’s corpse and of coordinating the movements of pick-up trucks used by the raiders and of weapons supplies.

The UN aid agency whose staff are accused of taking part in the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel has said the decision by Britain, the US and others to pause their funding 'will have serious repercussions in Gaza '. Pictured: The aftermath of the Hamas attack in October

The UN aid agency whose staff are accused of taking part in the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel has said the decision by Britain, the US and others to pause their funding ‘will have serious repercussions in Gaza ‘. Pictured: The aftermath of the Hamas attack in October

Several countries have paused funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) following allegations by Israel that 12 of its 13,000 staff in Gaza were involved in the attack which killed around 1,200 people and led to 250 others being kidnapped

Several countries have paused funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) following allegations by Israel that 12 of its 13,000 staff in Gaza were involved in the attack which killed around 1,200 people and led to 250 others being kidnapped

The UN agency provides health, aid, shelter and education services to the millions of Palestinians in Gaza, as well as the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria

The UN agency provides health, aid, shelter and education services to the millions of Palestinians in Gaza, as well as the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria

A third Palestinian in the dossier is accused of taking part in a rampage in the Israeli border village Beeri, one tenth of whose residents were killed. A fourth is accused of participating in an attack on Reim, site both of an army base that was overrun and a rave where more than 360 revellers died.

The dossier was shown to Reuters by a source who could not be identified by name or nationality. The source said that it had been compiled by Israeli intelligence and shared with the United States, which on Friday suspended funding for UNRWA.

An Israeli official told Reuters the 190 mentioned in the dossier were ‘hardened fighters, killers’ whereas overall some 10% of UNRWA staff were believed to have more general affiliation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The agency employs 13,000 people in Gaza.

Asked about the dossier, a spokesperson for UNRWA said she could not comment due to an ongoing probe by the United Nations.

Britain, the US, Canada and Australia have been joined by EU members including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria in pausing the funding for the agency which provides health, aid, shelter and education services to the millions of Palestinians in Gaza, as well as the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The United Nations has urged the countries to reconsider the pause in funding, pledging that any staff found involved in the Hamas attack would be punished and warning that aid for some two million people in Gaza was at stake.

Juliette Touma, Director of Communications at UNRWA, said the funding pause will have serious repercussions for people in Gaza, and has warned that the agency would be forced to stop its support in the territory by the end of February.

She told the BBC’s Today Programme that the allegations are ‘extremely serious’ and pointed to the decision of UNRWA’s director to suspend the accused staff members and for an ‘immediate’ investigation to be ordered into the accusations.

‘These accusations, when we became privy to the information about them, firstly we took them very very seriously. We were shocked by the level of these accusations.’

She said UNRWA has not been given the dossier, but that the organisation would report on the UN’s findings into the agency as soon as the outcomes were available.  

However, she also stressed how desperate the agency now is following the decision by some of its largest donors to pause funding to UNRWA.

‘We’re extremely desperate,’ she stressed to the BBC. ‘It’s come at a time when the humanitarian needs in Gaza are growing by the hour. 

‘I was there myself just last week, it’s absolutely desperate. People continue to be displaced, people are hungry, the clock is ticking fast towards famine, and we are doing everything possible to avert us from getting towards famine.

‘But this lack of funding that we’ve been faced with now when at least 10 of the largest donors of the agency have put a temporary pause of the funding – this is going to have very serious repercussions on what is right now, the largest humanitarian operation in Gaza,’ she warned.

Her comments came as the European Commission said on Monday it would review whether it could continue to fund UNRWA in light of the allegations.

The pauses in funding is a huge problem for an agency that more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians look to for day-to-day assistance, and which has already been hard-stretched by Israel’s war on Hamas in the enclave.

The damning accusations say the UNRWA employees did everything from a school counselor who allegedly helped kidnap a woman, others who gave out ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades and another that supposedly took part in a kibbutz slaughter that killed 97 people

The damning accusations say the UNRWA employees did everything from a school counselor who allegedly helped kidnap a woman, others who gave out ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades and another that supposedly took part in a kibbutz slaughter that killed 97 people

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was set up for refugees of the 1948 war at Israel’s founding in what had been British-ruled Palestine. It also tends to millions of the original refugees’ descendants in Palestinian territories and abroad.

Israel has long accused UNRWA or perpetuating conflict by discouraging the resettlement of refugees, and has on occasion said agency staff took part in armed attacks against it.

UNRWA denies wrongdoing, describing its role as relief only.

‘From intelligence information, documents and identity cards seized during the course of the fighting, it is now possible to flag around 190 Hamas and PIJ terrorist operatives who serve as UNRWA employees,’ the Hebrew-language dossier says.

It accuses Hamas of ‘methodically and deliberately deploying its terrorist infrastructure in a wide range of U.N. facilities and assets’, including schools. Hamas denies that.

Two of the alleged Hamas operatives cited in the dossier are described as ‘eliminated’, or killed by Israeli forces. A 12th Palestinian whose name and picture are provided is said to have no factional membership and to have infiltrated Israel on Oct 7.

Also in the list of 12 men are an UNRWA teacher accused of arming himself with an anti-tank rocket, another teacher accused of filming a hostage and the manager of a shop in an UNRWA school accused of opening a war-room for Islamic Jihad.

More than 26,000 people have been killed in Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, the enclave’s health ministry said. With flows of aid like food and medicine just a trickle of pre-conflict levels, deaths from preventable diseases as well as risk of famine are growing, aid workers say.

Most of Gaza’s people have become more reliant on UNRWA aid, including about one million who have fled Israeli bombardments to shelter in its facilities.

‘The terrorist organisations are cynically exploiting the residents of the Strip and the international organisations whose mission is to provide aid … and in doing so are causing de facto harm to residents of the Strip,’ the dossier said.

At the weekend, U.N. head Antonio Guterres vowed to hold to account any employee involved in ‘abhorrent’ acts, but implored nations to keep funding UNRWA for humanitarian reasons’

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,’ he said. ‘The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met.

An aerial view of destroyed buildings as a result of the Israeli attack on Nuseirat refugee camp,  in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on January 26

An aerial view of destroyed buildings as a result of the Israeli attack on Nuseirat refugee camp,  in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on January 26

The allegations have stoked longstanding tensions between Israel and UNRWA.

Israel says Hamas uses the agency’s facilities to store weapons or launch attacks from. UNRWA says it does not knowingly tolerate such behaviour and has internal safeguards to prevent abuses and discipline any wrongdoing.

The agency’s commissioner, Philippe Lazzarini, recently announced that he was ordering an external review of the agency’s operations and its safeguards.

Israel has long been critical of the agency and accuses it of helping to perpetuate the 76-year-old Palestinian refugee crisis. 

UNRWA says it cares for the vast needs of millions of Palestinians across the Middle East that have been sharply exacerbated by the latest war.

The allegations come from a dossier given to the US by Israeli intelligence, which American officials called ‘credible enough’ to justify de-funding the UN agency.

It was put together when officials tracked the movements of a dozen men in Israel on the day of the Hamas attack using their phone records and phone calls, the New York Times reports.

At least three of them were allegedly told via text message to report to evacuation locations on that day, with at least one told to bring along RPGs that he kept as his house, the dossier says.

Those accused are listed by their names – which have not been released – and a full description of their alleged behaviour that day is included in the dossier.

Of those accused, ten are believed by the Israelis to be members of Hamas, while seven were also labelled as teachers, a clerk, a social worker, the storeroom manager and other employees for UNRWA schools. 

A school counsellor from the south of Gaza is believed by Israeli intelligence to have teamed up with his son to abduct an Israeli woman. 

The social worker, from central Gaza, is alleged to have given out ammunition, coordinated vehicles and retrieved a dead Israeli soldier and brought him back to Gaza. 

The UNRWA said Sunday it had fired nine employees over Israel’s accusations, while two others have since died. 

The UN previously said one was still being identified. 

The US Department of State said it was ‘extremely troubled’ by the claims and called for ‘complete accountability’ for those involved in the October 7 attacks.

An aerial view of the tents where Palestinians are trying to survive in difficult conditions after fleeing their homes for safety in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on January 27

An aerial view of the tents where Palestinians are trying to survive in difficult conditions after fleeing their homes for safety in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on January 27

Internally displaced Palestinians move past Israeli tanks after the Israeli army told residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and head towards Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 27

Internally displaced Palestinians move past Israeli tanks after the Israeli army told residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and head towards Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 27

Donors including Germany, Britain, Italy, Australia and Finland have also followed the lead of the United States, which said on Friday it had ‘temporarily paused additional funding’ to the agency while it reviewed the claims as well as the UN’s plan to address concerns.

Japan late on Sunday said it has also decided to suspend additional funding. 

‘In Gaza’s rebuilding, UNRWA must be replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development,’ Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement, urging more donors to suspend funding.

The organisation is promising a thorough investigation into the claims, even before the explosive nature of the allegations was revealed.

The UK’s Foreign Office also announced on Saturday it would halt future funding of the UNRWA pending a review of the ‘concerning allegations’. 

A statement from the Foreign Office said it was ‘appalled’ by the allegations but remained ‘committed’ to getting humanitarian aid into Gaza.

On Saturday, Hamas slammed Israeli ‘threats’ against UNRWA, urging the United Nations and other international organisations not to ‘cave in to the threats’. 

People walk on a damaged road filled with rainwater amid Israeli attacks on Gaza, on January 27

People walk on a damaged road filled with rainwater amid Israeli attacks on Gaza, on January 27

Displaced Palestinians walk past Israeli tanks after the IDF asked residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and go to Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, south of the Gaza Strip, on January 26

Displaced Palestinians walk past Israeli tanks after the IDF asked residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and go to Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, south of the Gaza Strip, on January 26

Palestinians fleeing Khan Younis move towards Rafah amid the ongoing conflict, on January 27

Palestinians fleeing Khan Younis move towards Rafah amid the ongoing conflict, on January 27

Relations between Israel and the UNRWA, which have been strained for years, deteriorated further in recent days, with the UN agency condemning tank shelling it said had hit a shelter for displaced people in Gaza’s main southern city of Khan Yunis. 

The agency said tens of thousands of displaced people had been registered at the shelter and Wednesday’s tank shelling killed 13 people.

Asked about the incident, the Israeli army said ‘a thorough review of the operations of the forces in the vicinity is underway’, adding that it was examining the possibility that the strike was a ‘result of Hamas fire’.

Lazzarini slammed Wednesday’s bombardment as a ‘blatant disregard of basic rules of war’, with the compound clearly marked as a UN facility and its coordinates shared with Israeli authorities.

The Israeli army is the only force known to have tanks operating in the Gaza Strip.

The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, destroyed vast swathes of Gaza and displaced nearly 85 per cent of the territory’s 2.3 million people. 

The Hamas attack in southern Israel killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and about 250 hostages were taken. 

Before fighting broke out, the UNRWA struggled to meet funding requirements.

The agency’s chronic budget shortfalls worsened dramatically in 2018 when former US president Donald Trump cut support to the agency.

But US President Joe Biden’s administration has fully restored support, providing $340 million in 2022, making it the agency’s largest bilateral donor.

Internally displaced Palestinians move past Israeli tanks after the Israeli army told residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and head towards Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 27

Internally displaced Palestinians move past Israeli tanks after the Israeli army told residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and head towards Rafah camps near the Egyptian border, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 27 

Palestinian people holding empty bowls try to reach out for food distributed by volunteers at donation point as Israeli attacks continue in Rafah, Gaza, on January 26

Palestinian people holding empty bowls try to reach out for food distributed by volunteers at donation point as Israeli attacks continue in Rafah, Gaza, on January 26

A displaced Palestinian child holds up an empty pot as she waits with others to receive food aid provided by a Palestinian youth group in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 25

A displaced Palestinian child holds up an empty pot as she waits with others to receive food aid provided by a Palestinian youth group in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 25

Several key donor countries said on Saturday that they would halt their funding, prompting Lazzarini to say it was ‘shocking to see a suspension of funds to the agency in reaction to allegations against a small group of staff’.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell praised the agency on Friday for ‘playing a vital role over many years supporting vulnerable Palestinian refugees’.

But he said the bloc expected ‘full transparency on the allegations’ as well as ‘immediate measures against staff involved’.

The Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, urged donors to reverse their suspension, calling on Saturday for ‘maximum support for this international organisation and not stopping support and assistance to it’.

Johann Soufi, a lawyer and former director of the UNRWA’s legal office in Gaza, said the agency had ‘always had a zero-tolerance policy for violence and incitement to hatred’.

‘Sanctioning UNRWA, which is barely keeping the entire population of Gaza alive, for the alleged responsibility of a few employees, is tantamount to collectively punishing the Gazan population, which is living in catastrophic humanitarian conditions,’ he said.

The accusations against UNRWA staff came after the UN’s top court ordered Israel to do everything it can to prevent any acts of genocide in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice on Friday handed down its first judgement in a landmark case brought by South Africa.

Soufi said the timing of the allegations against the UNRWA ‘raises questions’. 



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