One of them is accused of kidnapping a woman. Another person is said to have distributed ammunition. A third person was allegedly involved in the massacre at the kibbutz, which left 97 people dead. All are said to be employees of the United Nations aid agency, which manages the school. , providing shelter and food to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The charges are contained in a dossier provided to the U.S. government detailing Israeli accusations against more than a dozen employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency who allegedly played a role in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. played a role or played a role in their actions. as a result of.
The United Nations said on Friday it had fired several employees after being briefed on the allegations. But little was known about the allegations until The New York Times reviewed the dossier on Sunday.
The accusations prompted eight countries, including the United States, to suspend some aid payments to UNRWA even as the war plunges Palestinians in Gaza into desperate straits. More than 26,000 people were killed there, nearly two dozen were killed. Millions of people have been displaced, according to Gaza and United Nations officials.
UNRWA staff are accused of helping Hamas launch attacks that triggered the war in Gaza, or of providing aid in the days that followed. Israeli officials said that about 1,200 people in Israel were killed that day, and about 240 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza.
On Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked by the allegations,” noting that nine of the 12 employees accused had been fired. But Mr Guterres implored countries that had suspended aid payments to reconsider. UNRWA is one of Gaza’s largest employers, with 13,000 employees, the majority of whom are Palestinians.
Asked on Sunday about the Israeli accusations, UNRWA said two of its 12 staff members died but could not provide further information because the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services was still investigating.
Two Western officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed they had been informed of the dossier’s contents in recent days but said they could not verify the details. While the United States has not confirmed Israel’s own claims, U.S. officials have said they believe they are credible enough to justify suspending aid.
The Times verified the identity of one of the 12 employees, a warehouse manager whose social media profile listed him as an UNRWA employee and showed him wearing United Nations-branded clothing.
An Israeli dossier submitted to U.S. officials on Friday lists the names and jobs of UNRWA employees as well as the charges against them.
Dossier says Israeli intelligence officials used cellphones to determine the whereabouts of six men in Israel on October 7; others were monitored while making phone calls inside Gaza, during which Israelis said they discussed their involvement in Hamas attacks .
Three other people received text messages asking them to report to a meeting point on October 7, and one was told to bring rocket-propelled grenades stored at home, according to the files.
Israel said 10 of the employees were members of Hamas, the militant group that controlled Gaza at the time of the Oct. 7 attack. Another employee is said to be affiliated with another militant group, Islamic Jihad.
However, it is alleged that seven of the defendants were also teachers at UNRWA schools, tutoring students in subjects such as mathematics and Arabic. The other two hold other positions at the school. The remaining three were described as clerks, a social worker and a warehouse manager.
The most detailed accusation in the dossier involves a school counselor in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, who is accused of collaborating with his son to kidnap an Israeli woman.
A social worker from Nuserat in central Gaza is accused of helping transport the body of an Israeli soldier to Gaza on the day of the attack, as well as distributing ammunition and coordinating vehicles.
Israel’s accusations come against the backdrop of decades-long friction with UNRWA. Since 1949, the agency has cared for the families of Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war that founded Israel.
The organization provides vital aid to more than five million Palestinian refugees scattered across the Middle East, whose future and status remain unresolved despite years of negotiations.
But to critics, including many Israelis, the agency is an obstacle to resolving the conflict. They say its very existence prevents Palestinian refugees from integrating into new communities and fuels their dreams of one day returning to what is now Israel – a goal Israel says it will never allow. Israel claims that UNRWA has come under the influence of Hamas in Gaza, a claim the agency denies.
This is not the first time the United States has cut off funding to the U.N. agency. The Trump administration has suspended aid as it pressures Palestinian leaders to stop demanding that refugees be allowed to return to Israel.
But the current threat to its funding is considered the most serious in its history, as it comes at a time of crisis in Gaza.
Amid warnings about famine, health systems and mass displacement of the Palestinian population, UNRWA’s work is considered more critical than ever. It helps coordinate the distribution of aid, no matter how meager, that arrives daily in southern Gaza, where schools provide shelter for more than a million Gazans, according to the agency.
Funding pauses may soon become apparent. Unlike other UN agencies, UNRWA does not have strategic financial reserves. On Sunday, Mr. Guterres said service reductions may be needed starting in February.
A day earlier, the agency’s general commissioner, Philippe Lazzarini, warned of impending disaster.
“It is extremely irresponsible to sanction an institution and the entire community it serves because some individuals have been accused of criminal conduct, especially during a time of war, displacement and political crisis in the region,” he said.
“The lives of the people of Gaza depend on this support, and so does the stability of the region,” Mr. Lazzarini said.
The U.S. State Department on Friday acknowledged its critical humanitarian role at UNRWA but said it would withhold funding while it evaluates the allegations and the agency’s response to them.
Israeli officials worried Sunday whether their accusations would ultimately make their situation more difficult, according to three officials involved in the discussions. Aid distribution – this is a role it does not want.
Reports on the charges against aid workers came on the same day that the International Court of Justice issued an interim ruling on genocide charges brought by South Africa against Israel. Court orders Israel to take action to stop its forces’ genocidal conduct in Gaza and allowing more aid to enter the territory.
Report contributors: Jonathan Rice, Julian E.Barnes, Gabby Sobelman and Myra Novick.