Israel-Palestine conflict: UNRWA sacks several staffers for 'role' in 7 Oct attacks
Sources in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said 12 UNRWA staff had participated in the violent attacks of 7 October, leading to the reported deaths of 1,200 people in Israel
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has sacked several of its employees suspected of involvement in the 7 October attacks on Israel.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini in a statement said the agency had sacked several of its employees after Israel's accusation. He, however, did not mention the number of employees who were sacked.
Sources in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told IANS that 12 UNRWA staff members had participated in the violent attacks of 7 October, leading to the reported deaths of 1,200 people in Israel. They also said information on the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff members was provided by the "terrorists" who were arrested by Israel.
In a statement on Friday night, the UNRWA chief said, "Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution."
He also said Israel authorities had provided information on the alleged involvement of its staff members. The Israeli side has also alleged that UNRWA vehicles were also used during the onslaught of 7 October.
In a social media post after the UNRWA sacked the staff members for their alleged involvement, Israel defence minister Yoav Gallant said, "Terrorism under the guise of humanitarian work is a disgrace to the UN and the principles it claims to represent."
Iin a statement on Friday, a spokesperson for the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said, "An urgent and comprehensive review of UNRWA will be conducted." The statement also said Guterres was horrified at the accusations against an UN agency, and has issued a comprehensive review on the functioning of the UNRWA.
The US state department, too, issued a statement that it was extremely shocked by the accusations and had temporarily paused additional funding to the UNRWA. It may be noted that the US had contributed $340 million to the UNRWA in 2022.
In a statement, Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said, "How symbolic that precisely on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was proven what we have been claiming for years: that UNRWA employees are collaborators of the terrorist organisation Hamas and that the UN has become not only a place where the existence of the State of Israel is delegitimized, but that its employees physically participated in the attempted extermination of Israel and the murder of innocent citizens."
UNRWA provided services including providing relief aid to the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, which helps prevent major chaos in the area for lack of basic necessities. UNRWA also provides relief to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
The outbreak of the conflict has adversely affected relations between Israel and UNRWA. The agency had charged that Israel was targeting civilian areas including its schools and first responder stations. Israel said UNRWA was, willfully or under threat, providing cover for Hamas terrorists.
Palestinian authorities have accused IDF of killing more than 26,000 Palestinians, including women and children.