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India expresses concern over claims about role of UNRWA employees in Hamas attack

Reports in prominent US media outlets have further publicized the claims of nearly 200 UNRWA personnel affiliated with militant groups, intensifying scrutiny on the agency.
12:48 AM Feb 02, 2024 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
india expresses concern over claims about role of unrwa employees in hamas attack
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New Delhi, Feb 1: Considering Israel's allegations against staff members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for their involvement in a Hamas-led attack on October 7, Randhir Jaiswal, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, stated in a recent media briefing that India continues to support Palestine through both bilateral relations and the United Nations. He stressed, however, India's firm stance against terrorism.

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Jaiswal expressed serious concern over claims made by Israel that some UNRWA employees played roles in the Hamas attack, with their involvement reportedly ranging from kidnapping to operational coordination.

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Emphasizing India's commitment to aiding Palestine, he clarified that India's assistance does not waver from its strict anti-terrorism policy.

Responding to inquiries about the accusations against UNRWA staff, Jaiswal mentioned India's approval of the United Nations' decision to initiate investigations into these claims.

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Recent disclosures from Israel, including a detailed six-page dossier against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), have triggered a financial dilemma for the organization, casting doubt on its future capabilities to meet the needs in Gaza.

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The Israeli intelligence report accuses numerous UNRWA staff of engaging in acts of abduction and violence during the October 7 event that escalated tensions in the Gaza Conflict.

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Specifically, the dossier alleges the involvement of 190 UNRWA workers, identifying some as having dual roles with Hamas or Islamic Jihad and leading to disciplinary actions by UNRWA including the termination of some employees.

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This situation has led to a significant funding halt from several countries, including the US, UK, Japan, and Austria, with these nations calling for immediate and thorough investigations into the allegations.

Reports in prominent US media outlets have further publicized the claims of nearly 200 UNRWA personnel affiliated with militant groups, intensifying scrutiny on the agency.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his horror but concurrently urged donor countries to ensure the uninterrupted operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Guterres revealed that nine of the 12 individuals implicated had been promptly identified and terminated by UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. One individual is confirmed deceased, and efforts are underway to ascertain the identities of the remaining two. Emphasising that Gaza should not face repercussions for
the allegations, Guterres called for continued support for UNRWA's vital operations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the deeply troubling nature of the reports about UNRWA staff involvement. While stressing the imperative need for the organisation to conduct a thorough investigation, hold individuals accountable, and reassess its procedures, Blinken also underscored UNRWA's indispensable role in providing essential assistance to men, women, and children in Gaza. He emphasized the necessity for the organization's ongoing role in meeting the critical needs of the population.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a key organization established in 1949 to assist Palestinians displaced by the conflict surrounding Israel's creation. Serving 5.9 million descendants of the original refugees, UNRWA employs 30,000 individuals across Gaza, the West Bank, and nearby Arab nations, focusing on education, healthcare, and humanitarian aid. Particularly vital in Gaza since the economic downturn in 2005, UNRWA's services are critical to nearly 45% of the population, providing shelter, food, water, and hygiene essentials amid ongoing conflicts.

Funded primarily by UN member states, including significant contributions from the European Union, the United States, and Germany, UNRWA faces financial challenges, with countries like India contributing approximately five million dollars annually. Recent controversies have prompted some nations to suspend their support, impacting the agency's operational capacity.

The international community faces a challenging task in addressing these serious allegations while ensuring the continuation of UNRWA's crucial humanitarian work. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both called for comprehensive investigations and accountability, underscoring the importance of UNRWA's mission in providing essential aid to the people of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz has demanded the resignation of UNRWA's Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, further complicating diplomatic efforts to sustain the agency's operations amidst this crisis.

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