UN ends or suspends probes into 5 UNRWA staffers accused by Israel

AFP , Saturday 27 Apr 2024

A UN probe into Israeli allegations that 19 members of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees participated in the October 7 operations has closed one case due to the absence of any evidence from Israel and suspended four others, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday.

A girl washes clothes by hand at a camp for displaced Palestinians erected in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip . AFP


UNRWA was swept into controversy in January when Israel, without providing evidence, accused 12 of its 30,000 employees of being involved in the October 7 events.

The UN immediately fired the implicated staff members and launched an internal investigation to assess the agency's neutrality, led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna.

The audit published on April 22, largely cleared the agency.

In recent weeks, the UN received information on seven additional UNRWA staffers allegedly involved in the attack, leading to new investigations.

Dujarric said that of the initial group of 12 UNRWA members, one case was closed "as no evidence was provided by Israel to support the allegations against the staff member."

"We are exploring corrective administrative action to be taken in that person's case," he said.

In addition, investigations into three other staffers were suspended, "as the information provided by Israel is not sufficient."

Regarding the seven fresh cases, one of them was also suspended pending additional evidence from Israel.

The other accused staffers remain under investigation, Dujarric said.

An interim report published in March found that "UNRWA has in place a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the Humanitarian Principle of neutrality."

Some 15 countries including the United States, Britain, Germany, and Japan suspended funding to UNRWA following the Israeli allegations.

Canada and Sweden, which were among those states, have since resumed sending aid to the agency.

UNRWA is the largest aid organization in Gaza, employing around 13,000 staff in the territory where Israel's bombardment has killed at least 34,388 people, mostly women and children, during more than six months of war.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini has warned that Israel is waging a concerted campaign aimed at destroying the UN agency.

Israel has been systematically targeting UNRWA for years, undermining its mission, calling for ending the definition of Palestinian refugees, and persistently rejecting their "right of return," which was backed by the UN in Resolution 194.


* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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