- UN chief António Guterres on Monday appointed an independent panel — running alongside the UN's own investigation — to examine Israeli allegations that 12 members of staff from the UN's Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) took part in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that killed upwards of 1.2K people.1
- Following the yet unproven claims, 16 countries suspended funding, resulting in a total loss of $440M for the organization. The agency, which employs 13K staff in Gaza, is the primary source of aid for the war-torn enclave's 2.3M population. It has said that famine is 'looming' in Gaza and appealed to the countries to reverse their decisions.2
- Meanwhile, the UN said the review panel will be headed by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who will work with three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. It further said that work will begin on Feb. 14, that the panel would send an interim report to the UN in late March, and that a final report, which will be made public, is expected by late April.1
- Nonetheless, Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, said his organization hasn't received any evidence from Israel to back up its allegations. A number of publications — most prominently the Financial Times in Britain — also said they had reviewed the confidential document laying out Israel's allegations but said the claims aren't backed up with hard evidence. The US, however, says the claims are 'highly, highly credible.'3
- Israel said the proof lay in intelligence intercepts and identity cards seized during the course of the fighting, but it so far hasn't handed this over to the UN. Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said: 'I don't think we need to give intelligence information. This would reveal sources in the operation.'4
- In the meantime, with UNRWA warning it would have to cease operations by the end of February if funding doesn't resume, Lazzarini is visiting three Gulf countries this week in a bid to restore some of the deficit. Meanwhile, over the past week, Spain and Portugal increased their funding to the agency — donating an additional €3.5M ($3.8M) and €1M ($1.1M) respectively.5
- Pro-Israel narrative, as provided by Jerusalem Post. The ties between UNRWA and Hamas have always been well-known and well-documented way before the Oct. 7 attacks. However, with UNRWA facilitating these disgusting antisemitic attacks on Israel — as the evidence undoubtedly shows — there can be no choice but to completely close down the organization.
- Pro-Palestine narrative, as provided by The Conversation. While these are serious allegations against UNRWA, they have yet to be backed up by evidence so they shouldn't be taken at face value. Even if the claims are true, it would amount to just 0.04% of the agency's workers. Should 2.3M Palestinians, who face one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history, face collective punishment for the alleged actions of such a small minority?