March 5, 2024 | Flash Brief

More Than 450 UNRWA Staff Are Terrorists, Israel Says

March 5, 2024 | Flash Brief

More Than 450 UNRWA Staff Are Terrorists, Israel Says

Latest Developments

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employs more than 450 “military operatives” from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Israel announced on March 4. In a briefing, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari claimed this is a “systematic” issue for UNRWA. “Hamas exploits humanitarian organizations and uses them to commit crimes against humanity,” Hagari said. Israel has previously said that 12 UNRWA staff members participated in Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

Hagari stated that Israel sent relevant intelligence to its “international partners,” including the United Nations. “There is no claiming ‘We do not know,’” Hagari said. Loosely referencing the March 4 allegations, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that he “has never been informed” or received evidence of Israel’s claims. Lazzarini believes UNRWA is “facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations and ultimately end them.”

Expert Analysis

“Like Nazi collaborators playing victims when their war crimes were exposed, UNRWA is trying anything to defend itself from the overwhelming evidence of its years of Hamas collaboration.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“It is difficult to fathom that the leaders of UNRWA were unaware of terrorist groups infiltrating their organization. Thus, it has become clear that the United Nations’ main agency in the Gaza Strip cannot be relied upon to function as a neutral entity. As the war persists, I anticipate the IDF will publish more evidence demonstrating UNRWA’s flagrant actions in the Gaza Strip.” — Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Funding Cuts for UNRWA

UNRWA said on February 1 that it will “most likely be forced to shut down our operations by the end of February not only in Gaza but also across the region” due to funding cuts. Following Israel’s accusations that 12 UNRWA staff joined the October 7 massacre, 16 donor countries cut $440 million of funding to UNRWA. On February 10, UNRWA head Lazzarini toured the Middle East to drum up UNRWA funding from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

European Commission Announces Audit of UNRWA

On March 1, the European Commission agreed to pay 50 million euros to UNRWA but will withhold 32 million euros until UNRWA properly responds to Israel’s allegations. The commission also intends to audit UNRWA with “independent external experts” and will focus “specifically on the control systems needed to prevent the possible involvement of its staff in terrorist activities,” the commission said. The commission further called on UNRWA to strengthen its Department of Internal Investigations and review “all” UNRWA staff “to confirm that they did not participate in the attacks.”

U.S. Bypasses UNRWA in Palestinian Aid Funds,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Sidesteps UNRWA to Deliver Gaza Aid Via WFP,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Arrests Eight UNRWA Employees Over Ties to Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Data Center Found Under UNRWA Headquarters,” FDD Flash Brief

Close Down UNRWA,” by Richard Goldberg

Israel: Find UNRWA Successor Now,” FDD Flash Brief


International Organizations Israel at War Palestinian Politics