Israel Palestine Conflict

Israel accuses UNRWA of employing ‘over 450 terrorists’

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Israel’s military on Monday accused the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, of employing “over 450 terrorists” belonging to groups including Hamas.

The allegation heightens Israel’s campaign against the agency which is at the centre of efforts to provide humanitarian relief in Gaza, where aid groups warn of looming famine after nearly five months of war between Israel and Hamas.

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“According to intelligence, over 450 terrorists belonging to terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip, mainly Hamas, are also employed by UNRWA,” a military statement said.

UNRWA employs around 30,000 people in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria -- with about 13,000 staff in the Gaza Strip.

The military also released what it said were recordings of “a terrorist working as an Arabic teacher at an UNRWA school” who is “describing his entry into Israeli territory and stating that he is holding female Israeli hostages” during the October 7 attack by Hamas which started the war.

AFP could not independently corroborate the claims made in the statement.

UNRWA has been at the centre of controversy since Israel accused about a dozen of its employees of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Several countries -- including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan -- suspended funding to UNRWA following the Israeli allegations. But the European Commission, recognising steps taken by the UN, said Friday it would release 50 million euros ($54 million) in UNRWA funding.

Phillipe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, has said that Israel provided no evidence against his former employees.

The United Nations fired the staff accused by Israel and has begun an internal probe.

Israel’s latest accusations against UNRWA came on the same day Lazzarini was set to defend his organisation’s work at the UN General Assembly.

In a letter to the Assembly’s president, Lazzarini said the agency’s ability to carry out its mandate is “seriously threatened.” He urged member states to “provide the political support necessary to sustain” it.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed more than 30,500 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from Hamas-run Gaza’s health ministry.

Further escalating tensions, Israel’s foreign minister said on Monday that Israel had called its ambassador to the United Nations home for “immediate consultations” over what it said was a UN attempt to “silence” information of sexual violence by Hamas.

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Israel has criticized the UN for not responding quickly enough to victims’ accounts of rape and sexual assault allegedly committed during Hamas’s incursion into Israel.

Read more:

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Top EU officials call for probe into Gaza civilians killed while awaiting aid

Israeli forces shot at people collecting aid in Gaza, say injured survivors

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