February 22, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Arrests Eight UNRWA Employees Over Ties to Hamas

February 22, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Arrests Eight UNRWA Employees Over Ties to Hamas

Latest Developments

Israel arrested eight employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over their ties to Hamas, the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported on February 22. Citing Israeli intelligence sources, Ma’ariv revealed that Israeli forces arrested the UNRWA employees in Gaza on separate occasions between October and February and then moved them to Israel for further investigation. One of the detained UNRWA employees is alleged to have participated in the October 7 atrocities carried out by Hamas terrorists.

Ma’ariv quoted Israeli officials saying that UNRWA approached them with a request for more details about the eight detainees, including evidence of their affiliation with Hamas. Israel has not said whether it will comply with the request, as its investigation is ongoing. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on February 16 that at least 30 UNRWA employees “participated in the October 7 massacre, facilitated the taking of hostages, looted and stole from Israeli communities, and more.”

Expert Analysis

“While the UN leads a phony investigation to whitewash UNRWA’s crimes, Israel is likely to gain much more damaging information about the agency from UNRWA terrorists in custody. Try as the UN secretary-general might to save it, UNRWA’s days are numbered.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Adviser

“The role that UNRWA and its staff have played in precluding the people of Gaza from realizing the peaceful future they deserve continues to be exposed with each passing day. It’s time to acknowledge that UNRWA’s failed mission and failed leadership don’t need reforming. They need to be replaced. The good news is that this is entirely doable. The United States and 17 other countries that have paused funding should now work with agencies that are not beholden to Hamas and are not inherently structured to hold back Palestinians in Gaza and beyond from living prosperous lives.” — Toby Dershowitz, Managing Director of FDD Action

Hundreds of UNRWA Personnel Engaged in Hamas Terrorism

Ma’ariv also reported on an intelligence analysis presented to Israel’s war cabinet on February 21 revealing that out of 12,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza, 440 are active in Hamas’s military operations. A further 2,000 are supporters of Hamas but not involved with its terrorist activities. Another 7,000 UNRWA employees have a close relative who is a member of Hamas, the analysis found.

The UN does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. “Hamas is not a terrorist group for us … It’s a political movement,” Martin Griffiths, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, stated on February 14. That view is not shared by the 18 donor countries — among them the United States, the biggest single contributor to UNRWA — that have suspended funding to the agency over the last four months as detailed evidence of its links to Hamas has come to light. The 18 countries are Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

U.S. Funding for UNRWA

Between 1950 and 2018, U.S. taxpayers contributed about $6 billion to UNRWA. In September 2018, the Trump administration cut funding to the agency, calling it “irredeemably flawed.” President Joe Biden unconditionally resumed funding UNRWA in 2021, delivering $1 billion over three years, making the United States once again UNRWA’s single largest donor.

“Top UN Aid Official Says Hamas Is Not A Terrorist Group,” FDD Flash Brief

Close Down UNRWA,” by Richard Goldberg

Israel: Find UNRWA Successor Now,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Funding to UNRWA Still Flowing,” FDD Flash Brief

10 Things to Know About the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),” FDD Insight


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