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unrwa scandal

UN chief reveals new details about 12 UNRWA employees involved in 'abhorrent alleged acts'

Guterres: UN to punish staffers involved in 'terror,' urges UNRWA funding

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses delegates at the opening of the Third South Summit (G77+China) in the Munyonyo suburb, of Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 21, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa/File Photo)

In his first direct comments on the issue, United Nations Sec.-Gen. António Guterres provided details about the UNRWA staffers implicated in the "abhorrent alleged acts." Of the 12 implicated, he said, nine had been terminated, one was confirmed dead and the identities of the other two were being clarified.

He vowed on Sunday to hold into account "any UN employee involved in acts of terror" following allegations that some refugee agency staffers were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

But Guterres implored governments to continue supporting the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) after multiple nations paused their funding.

"Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution," the UN chief said in a statement. "The Secretariat is ready to cooperate with a competent authority able to prosecute the individuals in line with the Secretariat’s normal procedures for such cooperation."

At the same time, he said: "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. The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met."

On Saturday, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland joined the United States, Australia and Canada in pausing their funding to the aid agency, a critical source of support for the population in Gaza, after the allegations presented by Israel.

"While I understand their concerns – I was myself horrified by these accusations - I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations," Guterres said.

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