June 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israeli Victims of Hamas October 7 Atrocities File Lawsuit in New York Against UNRWA

June 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israeli Victims of Hamas October 7 Atrocities File Lawsuit in New York Against UNRWA

Latest Developments

A group of more than 100 Israeli plaintiffs, composed of victims of the October 7 Hamas atrocities along with family members, filed a lawsuit in New York on June 24 demanding over $1 billion in damages from the United Nations (UN) agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The 167-page lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, is directed “against seven current and former top United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) officials who are accused of knowing that Hamas siphoned off more than $1 billion from the agency to pay for, among other things, tunneling equipment and weapons that aided its attack on Israel on October 7,” The New York Times reported. The seven defendants include UNRWA’s current commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini, as well as its former commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl, who is now the director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees; and Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, director of UNRWA’s New York office. The Israeli plaintiffs include Ditza Heiman, one of the more than 250 hostages abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, who was released in an exchange deal the following month, and Gadi and Reuma Kedem, whose daughter Tamar, son-in-law Yonatan, and three grandchildren Shahar, Arbel, and Omer were all murdered by Hamas in their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz.

A spokesperson for UNRWA, Juliette Touma, told The New York Times that she was aware of the lawsuit but emphasized, “The United Nations, including UNRWA, enjoys immunity from legal process, as do United Nations officials, including those serving with UNRWA.”

Expert Analysis

“Hamas has long used charities to finance its terrorism against Israel. It is unconscionable — but not surprising — that the UN is part of this terror financing scheme. Not another cent — U.S., European, or otherwise — should line the coffers of this genocidal group.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

“This lawsuit highlights UNRWA’s longstanding complicity in enabling terrorism. UNRWA facilities have been used to stockpile weapons, conceal Hamas terror tunnels, and command infrastructure. The agency has also employed individuals with terror ties. At best, UNRWA has demonstrated extreme negligence; at worst, it has knowingly and directly facilitated Hamas’s terror operations. Either way, it’s time for the agency to be held accountable and for those responsible for these moral and strategic failures to face consequences.” — Nick Stewart, Senior Director of Government Relations at FDD Action

UNRWA ‘Knowingly Provided’ Hamas With U.S. Dollars

The lawsuit states that UNRWA knowingly provided “Hamas with the US dollars in cash that it needed to pay smugglers for weapons, explosives, and other terror materiel.” The allegation is based on UNRWA’s practice of paying its 13,000 employees in Gaza in U.S. dollars, using cash transported to Gaza from the branch of the Arab Bank in the West Bank city of Ramallah. UNRWA employees would then convert their payments into Israeli shekels, the currency used in Gaza, utilizing Hamas money changers who took a 10 to 25 percent spread on transactions, “ensuring that a predictable percentage of UNRWA’s payroll went to Hamas,” according to the lawsuit.

In addition, the lawsuit charged that UNRWA “knowingly provided material support to Hamas in Gaza” by allowing the terror group safe harbor in its facilities, including schools and other buildings used for weapons storage or command centers. “The resulting atrocities were foreseeable, and the defendants are liable for aiding and abetting Hamas’ genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture,” the lawsuit said.

‘Impossible To Say Where UNRWA Ends And Hamas Begins,’ Israel Says

In a statement in April, the Israeli Foreign Ministry charged that Hamas and UNRWA had integrated to the extent that “it is impossible to say where UNRWA ends and Hamas begins.” Released ahead of the publication of a UN-commissioned report that largely exonerated UNRWA on the question of its collaboration with Hamas, the statement asserted that “If more than 2,135 UNRWA employees are members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and 1/5 of the principals of UNRWA schools are Hamas activists, the problem with UNRWA-Gaza is not a problem of a few bad apples … it is a poisoned and rotten tree whose roots are Hamas.” Israel, whose parliament passed a preliminary bill to designate UNRWA as a terrorist organization on May 29, has long accused UNRWA of supporting and employing members of Hamas, including at least 15 UNRWA employees who played a direct role in the October 7 massacre. According to Israel, UNRWA also ignores Hamas’s use of its facilities, such as the Hamas data center discovered underneath UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters in February.

Israel Targets Hamas and Islamic Jihad Terrorists Hiding in UNRWA School,” FDD Flash Brief

UNRWA meets the Spanish Inquisition,” by Ben Cohen

Gaza Terrorists Exploit Two More UNRWA Facilities,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

International Organizations Israel Israel at War Lawfare