UN chief vows immediate action on 'infiltration of Hamas' in UN

February 9, 2024 12:54 pm

[Source: Reuters]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday pledged to act immediately on any new information from Israel related to “infiltration of Hamas” in the world body after nine U.N. staff in the Gaza Strip were fired last month.

Israel last month accused 12 staff with the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency of taking part in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants. Of the remaining three staff, one is dead, while the U.N. was clarifying the identity of the other two.

An internal U.N. investigation has been launched as the United States – the largest donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

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(UNRWA) – and other countries paused funding following the allegations.

“One thing that you can be absolutely sure, any delegation that is presented to us by the government of Israel in relation to any other infiltration of Hamas in the U.N., at whatever level, we will act immediately upon it,” Guterres told reporters on Thursday.

A six-page Israeli intelligence dossier, seen by Reuters, further alleges that some 190 UNRWA employees, including teachers, have doubled as Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants.

However, Guterres and UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini have not received any further information from Israel since the initial accusations against the 12 staff. It was not clear whether Israel had provided information to the internal U.N. inquiry.

Guterres defended the decision to fire the staff before an inquiry was complete, citing credible information from Israel, adding: “We couldn’t run the risk not to act immediately as the accusations were related to criminal activities.”

The Palestinians have accused Israel of falsifying information to tarnish UNRWA. UNRWA employs 13,000 people in Gaza, running schools, its primary healthcare clinics and other social services, and distributing humanitarian aid.

Guterres last month described UNRWA as “the backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza” and appealed to all countries to “guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s lifesaving work.”