Photo by Photo by Yafit Ilyaguyev/Foreign Ministry on 11 March, 2024

UN Official Investigating UNRWA-Hamas Links Arrives In Israel

Public By Pesach Benson • 11 March, 2024

Jerusalem, 11 March, 2024 (TPS) -- Former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who has been tasked with investigating the UN Relief and Works Agency’s neutrality and participation in Hamas’s October 7 attacks, arrived in Israel on Monday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres established the committee after Israel provided evidence that staff members of the UNRWA had been directly involved in the attacks and were also members of Hamas.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement that he looked forward to sharing Israel’s evidence against the agency with Colonna.

“The minister further said that UNRWA is part of the problem and will not be part of the solution in Gaza, and expressed his expectation that following the visit, all the researchers involved in writing the report will come to Israel, so that they can see for themselves the testimonies and the large amount of information, directly,” Katz’s statement said.

Colonna’s investigation is in collaboration with the Sweden-based Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, and Norway’s Chr. Michelsen Institute for Science and Intellectual Freedom.

The Foreign Ministry said Colonna met with Director-General Kobi Blitstein, who presented the investigator with intelligence

Embattled UNRWA

Since October 7, the agency has been under fire numerous times, prompting Israel to demand that UNRWA be stripped of its authority in Gaza and defunded amid revelations that members of the agency’s staff participated in Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel. The US and 14 other countries have suspended funding for the agency and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the military to find alternatives to distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza that bypass UNRWA.

Israel intelligence incriminating 12 staffers of their participation, including using UNRWA vehicles and facilities during the massacres was leaked to The New York Times. Afterward, The Wall Street Journal reported that one in 10 UNRWA employees is either an active member of, or has ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Israel’s largest bank froze UNRWA’s account over suspicious financial transfers that the agency failed to adequately explain.

Reports released by IMPACT-SE and UN Watch documented UNRWA employees expressing support for the attacks on social media.

Soldiers found missiles hidden among UNRWA relief supplies while sacks belonging to the agency were filled with dirt and used in the lining of tunnels.

Jerusalem’s deputy mayor accused UNRWA of undermining Israeli sovereignty over the city, among other things.

Palestinian refugees are the only refugee population with its own dedicated UN agency. The rest of the world’s refugees fall under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Israeli officials have called for UNRWA to be closed and for Palestinian refugees to be brought under the responsibility of the UNHCR.

The UNRWA’s definition of refugees not only includes the original refugees but also their descendants in perpetuity, including those who have citizenship in other countries. The UNHCR definition does not confer refugee status on descendants.

Since the revelations, donations to the agency have plummeted. In recent days, Sweden and Canada said they would resume funding while the investigation continues.

On Saturday, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told Swiss broadcaster RTS, “The agency is at risk of death, it is risking dismantlement.”