UN agency fires employees allegedly involved in October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel News
RomanDeckert, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN agency fires employees allegedly involved in October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced Friday that the agency fired a number of employees that were allegedly involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini stated:

The Israeli Authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on 7 October. To protect the Agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.

Lazzarini went on to state that UNRWA condemned the October 7 attacks and called for an immediate release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Lazzarini concluded, writing, “Anyone who betrays the fundamental values of the United Nations also betrays those whom we serve in Gaza.”

The US, one of Israel’s longtime allies, expressed concern about the allegations, with US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller stating the US would be “temporarily paus[ing]” any additional funding for UNRWA until the allegations are fully investigated. Miller went on to state that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with UN Secretary General António Guterres Thursday “to emphasize the necessity of a thorough and swift investigation of this matter.” Miller concluded, writing:

UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support.  Their work has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures, including reviewing its existing policies and procedures.

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant shared his appreciation for the US funding pause and criticized UNRWA, saying:

Thank you to the U.S. Administration for your leadership and taking an important step in holding UNRWA accountable. At least a dozen UNRWA employees participated in the horrific attack conducted on October 7th – these are “humanitarian workers” with blood on their hands.

This is the latest in a steady escalation of tensions between Israel and the UN since Israel declared war on Hamas. The UN Security Council voted in late December in favor of a United Arab Emirates-backed resolution which increased humanitarian aid to Gaza and called for a “sustainable cessation of hostilities,” which was met with criticism from Israel. The UN also voted on two resolutions earlier in 2023 calling for a ceasefire, one sponsored by Brazil and the other brought forth by Guterres, who invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter to do so. Both resolutions were vetoed by the US, which has ultimate veto power as part of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. 

Guterres previously highlighted the record number of UN employees killed during the Israel-Hamas War and claimed Israel’s offensive is causing “massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza.” In late October, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen stated he would not meet with Guterres, writing, “I will not meet with the UN Secretary-General. After the October 7th massacre, there is no place for a balanced approach. Hamas must be erased off the face of the planet!” In early December, Israel sent a letter to the UN stating it would not renew the visa of UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Lynn Hastings and then later in the month Israel announced it would not renew the visa of one employee and would not issue a new visa to a second employee of the UN working on the ground in Israel and Gaza.