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UNRWA fires several employees suspected of involvement in October 7 attack on Israel

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees, said on Friday (January 26) that it had fired several employees after the Israeli authorities provided the agency with information alleging that the employees were involved in Hama Sri Lanka’s terrorist attack in Israel on October 7.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement: “In order to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have decided to terminate the contracts of these staff members with immediate effect and to launch an immediate investigation. Establish the truth.”

He said, “Any UNRWA employee involved in terrorist acts will be held accountable, including criminal prosecution.”

UNRWA has approximately 13,000 Palestinian staff in the Gaza Strip. The war broke out in October after Hamas launched terror attacks in Israel that killed 1,200 people and killed more than 150 of the agency’s employees.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Lazzarini had informed him of “these extremely serious allegations.”

Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement: “The Secretary-General is shocked by this news and has asked Mr. Lazzarini to quickly investigate the matter and ensure the dismissal of anyone involved in or abetting the October 7 incident.”

He said an “urgent and comprehensive independent review” of UNRWA would be conducted, but gave no further details of who would conduct the review. .

Israel has criticized UNRWA for years, claiming the agency runs schools that are used for terror activities by Hamas and promotes anti-Israel curricula. Since the Oct. 7 attack, Israeli officials have accused some agency staff of celebrating the attack on social media.

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“How symbolic is it that on this International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, UNRWA employees were revealed to have participated in the massacre?” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told the United Nations that the day was held to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust. “The United Nations is being weaponized not only to delegitimize our presence but also to physically exterminate us.”

Lazzarini said on Friday. “UNRWA once again condemns in the strongest terms the events of October 7. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages and their safe return to their families.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also reiterated this call at an event in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Hamas took about 240 people hostage in the deadly attack on October 7. The United States, Britain, and the European Union have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

UNRWA has been on the front lines in Gaza, providing relief to more than 2 million Palestinians in the area. The health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza says more than 26,000 Palestinians have died since Israel began its offensive on the Gaza Strip to eliminate the Hamas threat.

U.S. Funding Suspended The United States

UNRWA’s largest single funder said it would temporarily withhold additional funding while it reviews the allegations and steps the U.N. takes to address them. Before the war broke out, Washington had allocated nearly $300 million to UNRWA in 2023.

The State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Guterres on Thursday “to emphasize the need for a thorough and expeditious investigation of this matter.”

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“Anyone involved in the heinous attack on October 7 must be held fully accountable,” spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Miller said Washington has reached out to the Israeli government for more information about the allegations, and members of Congress were briefed.

Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey and chairman of the Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and International Organizations, criticized the suspension of new funding for UNRWA as “completely inadequate.”

“We need a comprehensive, fact-based approach to UNRWA, halting all funding and making future funding conditional on the completion of a radical reform and restructuring of UNRWA,” he said.

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