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Updated Jan 26, 2024, 11:56am EST
securityMiddle East

UN agency staff under investigation for suspected role in Oct. 7 attacks on Israel

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner General Berlin
Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General. Photothek via Reuters
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The News

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has fired “several” staff members and begun an internal probe after Israel provided information about their alleged involvement in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said Friday.

“These shocking allegations come as more than two million people in Gaza depend on lifesaving assistance that the agency has been providing since the war began,” Lazzarini said, but did not provide more details on what information Israel had provided.

United States State Department officials said they were ”troubled" by the allegations and had suspended UNWRA funding while the U.N. investigated the matter.

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The UNWRA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, has played one of the most critical roles in relief and human development of Gaza for several years, including crucial aid delivery to the enclave since Israel began its counteroffensive following the Oct. 7 attacks.

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Employing more than 13,000 people, the UNRWA — the biggest U.N. agency in Gaza — is one of the enclave’s largest employers. More than 100 of its staff members have been killed in the bombardment of the enclave, the U.N. said last year.

Aid remains crucial to Gaza as its residents face a humanitarian disaster. The local health authority said that more than 26,000 people have died since Oct. 7. Health authorities have also warned that Gazans are at risk of starvation and infectious diseases as the weather gets colder.

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Tensions between Israel and the U.N. have flared in recent months as the bombardment of Gaza draws more and more international condemnation and unheeded calls for a ceasefire. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday issued his strongest rebuke of Israel to date, warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that rejecting growing calls for a two-state solution would only prolong the war.

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