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unrwa scandal

Panel investigating UNRWA-Hamas ties delivers inconclusive preliminary report

Activists protest against United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) outside their offices in Jerusalem, March 20, 2024. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An independent panel tasked with probing ties between the UN refugee agency (UNRWA) and the terrorist organization Hamas, presented an inconclusive interim report regarding its findings.

Former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna is leading the investigation panel, which includes research organizations from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The panel is charged to probe whether UNRWA is doing “everything in its power” to uphold neutrality and professionalism in its daily work.

The report, presented to UN Sec.-Gen. António Guterres on Wednesday, found that "UNRWA has in place a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the Humanitarian Principle of neutrality, and the group has also identified critical areas that still need to be addressed,” the UN stated without elaborating on the findings.

The panel was formed after Israel presented evidence that several UNRWA workers actively participated in the Hamas Oct. 7 terror attack when 1,200 men, women and children near Israeli southern border communities were brutally slaughtered.

However, the UN has so far not provided any final conclusions.

The UN statement added that the panel "will now develop concrete and realistic recommendations on how to address these critical areas to strengthen and improve UNRWA."

For decades, UNRWA has faced criticism for being a highly politicized entity, where instances of antisemitism and endorsements of terrorism have been reported as persistent issues within schools operated by UNRWA.

In February 2021, reports emerged noting that UNRWA schools were still teaching content that fostered hatred towards Jews and the State of Israel, despite previous commitments to halt such incitement.

In December 2023, testimonies from recently released Israeli hostages revealed that a UNRWA teacher and a Gazan doctor cooperated with Hamas by holding captives inside the Gaza Strip. Since then, there have been reports of additional UNRWA officials involved in holding Israeli hostages captive in the coastal enclave.

In January 2024, the United States and several other donor nations decided to suspend their financial aid to UNRWA after Israel presented incriminating evidence of close cooperation between the organization and Hamas. At the time, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller emphasized that Washington was “extremely troubled” by the evidence of UNRWA workers taking part in the Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7.

"There must be complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks." U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly told the UN Chief Guterres.

In February 2024, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused UNRWA officials of being complicit in the Hamas attack.

“UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas, Netanyahu said. “It has been in the service of Hamas and its schools, and in many other things.”

“I think it’s time that the international community and the UN itself understand that UNRWA’s mission has to end,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant presented the names of 12 UNRWA workers who participated in the Oct. 7 massacres. In February, he told international media that the Israel had evidence of an additional 30 UNRWA workers with direct ties to Hamas, which openly calls for the destruction of the Jewish nation.

At least 12% (1,500) of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees stationed in Gaza reportedly have ties to Hamas, according to Israeli intelligence estimates.

The panel is scheduled to submit its final conclusions in a report on April 20.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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