By TIA GOLDENBERG, NAJIB JOBAIN and JACK JEFFERY (Associated Press)
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — An Israeli doc obtained Monday spelled out allegations towards a dozen U.N. workers the nation says took half in Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault — claiming seven stormed into Israeli territory, together with one who participated in a kidnapping and one other who helped to steal a soldier’s physique.
The allegations towards staffers with the U.N. company for Palestinian refugees prompted Western international locations to freeze funds very important for the physique, which is a lifeline for determined Palestinians in Gaza.
The U.N. condemned “the abhorrent alleged acts” and fired 9 of the accused staff, who embody academics and a social employee. Two are reportedly useless, and the final remains to be being recognized.
The accusations come after years of tensions between Israel and the company referred to as UNRWA over its work in Gaza, the place it employs roughly 13,000 individuals.
Despite the humanitarian disaster unfolding within the besieged territory — the place Israel’s battle towards Hamas has displaced the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants and officers say 1 / 4 of Palestinians are ravenous — main donors, together with the U.S. and Britain, have lower funding. On Monday, Japan and Austria joined them in pausing help.
With nearly all of its finances unsure, and since UNRWA spends donor contributions as they arrive in all year long, the company says it is going to be compelled to halt operations inside weeks if funding isn’t restored.
‘SIGNIFICANT GAPS’ REMAIN IN CEASE-FIRE TALKS
The risk to the U.N. company got here as Israel mentioned cease-fire talks held Sunday have been constructive however that “significant gaps” remained in any potential settlement. The talks are supposed to result in some respite to war-torn Gaza and safe the discharge of greater than 100 hostages nonetheless held within the territory.
Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan instructed reporters in Beirut that discussions are persevering with however that the group remains to be insisting on a extra everlasting cease-fire earlier than releasing any extra hostages.
The prime minister of Qatar, which has served as a key mediator with Hamas, was extra upbeat, saying U.S. and Mideast mediators had reached a framework proposal for a cease-fire and hostage launch to current to the militant group. Speaking on the Atlantic Council in Washington, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani mentioned the mediators had made “good progress.”
Israeli forces are in the meantime nonetheless battling Palestinian fighters in numerous elements of Gaza, even in areas the place the military has been working for months.
Israel issued an evacuation order to residents within the western a part of Gaza City, urging them to move south. The navy additionally mentioned it had battled fighters and carried out airstrikes in latest days in different elements of northern Gaza, which was pummeled within the first weeks of the battle and the place Israel has claimed to have largely dismantled Hamas.
Fighters additionally fired a barrage of round 15 rockets at central Israel for the primary time in weeks. There have been no speedy reviews of casualties or harm.
The battle was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault, which killed 1,200 individuals, largely civilians, and noticed some 250 individuals taken captive, in keeping with Israeli authorities. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Israel responded with an intense air, sea and floor offensive that has killed greater than 26,000 Palestinians, most of them ladies and minors, in keeping with the Gaza Health Ministry. The ministry doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its depend.
The battle has additionally threatened to set off a wider regional battle. In the newest instance of excessive tensions, the U.S. introduced that three of its troops have been killed in a strike blamed on Iran-backed militias in Jordan.
DETAILED ALLEGATIONS AGAINST UNRWA WORKERS
The Israeli doc, which has been shared with U.S. officers and was obtained by The Associated Press, lists 12 individuals, their alleged roles within the assault, job descriptions and images. The findings detailed within the doc couldn’t be independently confirmed.
The doc mentioned intelligence gathered confirmed that at the least 190 UNRWA staff have been Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives, with out offering proof.
It mentioned of the 12 staff, 9 have been academics and one a social employee. Seven of the staff have been accused of crossing into Israel on Oct. 7. Of these, one was accused of participating in a kidnapping, one other of serving to to remove a useless soldier and three others of collaborating within the assaults.
One was accused of arming himself with an anti-tank missile the evening earlier than the assault, whereas the doc claimed one other took images of a feminine hostage. Ten have been listed as having ties to Hamas and one to the Islamic Jihad militant group.
Two of the 12 have been killed, in keeping with the doc. The U.N. beforehand mentioned one was nonetheless being recognized.
The allegations have stoked longstanding tensions between Israel and UNRWA. Israel says Hamas makes use of the company’s amenities to retailer weapons and launch assaults. UNRWA says it doesn’t knowingly tolerate such conduct and has inside safeguards to forestall abuses and self-discipline any wrongdoing.
Even earlier than the newest allegations, the company’s commissioner, Philippe Lazzarini, had introduced that he was ordering an exterior evaluate of the company’s operations and its safeguards.
Israel has lengthy been crucial of the company and accuses it of serving to to perpetuate the 76-year-old Palestinian refugee disaster. Foreign Minister Israel Katz mentioned he canceled a Wednesday assembly between Israeli officers and Lazzarini, and known as on the UNRWA head to resign.
CALL TO RESUME FUNDING
The U.N. says all the company shouldn’t be penalized over the alleged actions of the dozen staff, who it says might be held accountable. It has known as for the donors to renew funding.
A coalition of 20 help teams, together with the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Save the Children, additionally known as for funding to be restored, saying UNRWA’s supply of humanitarian help “cannot be replaced.”
“If the funding suspensions are not reversed, we may see a complete collapse of the already restricted humanitarian response in Gaza,” they mentioned in a joint assertion.
The United States, the company’s largest donor, lower funding over the weekend, adopted by greater than a dozen different international locations. Together, they offered greater than 60% of UNRWA’s finances in 2022.
UNRWA gives primary providers for Palestinian households who fled or have been pushed out of what’s now Israel in the course of the 1948 battle surrounding the nation’s creation. Refugees and their descendants now quantity practically 6 million throughout the Middle East. In Gaza, they’re a majority of the inhabitants.
Since the battle started, many of the territory’s 2.3 million individuals have come to rely upon the company’s applications for “sheer survival,” together with meals and shelter, Lazzarini mentioned.
1 / 4 of Gaza’s inhabitants is going through hunger as combating and Israeli restrictions hinder the supply of help. Communications Director Juliette Touma warned that the company could be compelled to cease its help in Gaza by the tip of February.
Jobain reported from Rafah, Gaza Strip, and Jeffery from London.
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