An Israeli intelligence dossier spelling out allegations that a dozen staffers at the United Nations’ top agency in Gaza participated in the Oct. 7 attacks includes little evidence to back up those claims, according to a copy obtained by The Daily Beast.
The six-page dossier, a summary of a larger report, names 12 employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, and describes their alleged ties to Hamas. Nine are accused of crossing the border on Oct. 7 to take part in raids on Israeli communities, including one man, a school counselor, who is accused of kidnapping a woman.
Citing “intelligence information, documents and identity cards seized during the course of the fighting,” the dossier also claims that around 190 UNRWA employees are “terrorist operatives” working for Hamas or affiliate group Palestine Islamic Jihad. It does not go into further detail on the exact nature of the alleged information, documents, or identity cards.
“The terrorist organizations are cynically exploiting the residents of the Strip and the international organizations whose mission it is to provide aid for its residents,” the dossier states, “and in doing cause de facto harm to the residents of the Strip and endanger their security.”
Leaked copies of the dossier began circulating last week, with few of the first media outlets to report on its contents acknowledging its lack of hard intelligence. (There were some exceptions, like CBS News, which noted that the claims were laid out “without providing evidence.”) Even before the leaks, however, the accusations had thrown the agency’s future into doubt.
In the days since the U.N. revealed Israel’s accusations, at least 18 donor countries, including the United States, have elected to suspend vital aid to the agency, which employs roughly 13,000 people in Gaza to run schools, operate health-care centers, and oversee the distribution of food and medical aid. The New York Times reported Monday that it is set to lose $65 million by the end of the month, a loss that could incur disastrous results.
“Our humanitarian operation, on which two million people depend as a lifeline in Gaza, is collapsing,” UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement on Saturday.
The U.N. also said late last month it had fired nine of the 12 accused workers as it investigates the matter further. (Of the three remaining employees, two are dead and another is unaccounted for.) Juliette Touma, UNRWA’s director of communications, told France 24 the decision was made to quickly terminate the workers and launch an inquiry because the allegations “put the reputation of the agency and humanitarian operation in Gaza at serious risk.”
The U.S. and other countries that have suspended aid have indicated they will not reverse course until the investigation is concluded. U.N. sources indicated to France 24 that the investigation—particularly in the middle of an active war zone—could take up to a year.
“What would happen if the agency would disappear, even beyond the current crisis?” Lazzarini asked the Financial Times, which also expressed doubts about the strength of the dossier’s claims in a Monday story. “Even if UNRWA disappears, the refugee status remains. Politically, these people still keep their refugee status. It will not go [away] because UNRWA is going.”
The larger intelligence report has not been shared with either UNRWA or the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services, the team that will carry out the investigation, according to France 24. Israel’s foreign ministry told the network that intelligence had been gleaned from phone tracking data and footage taken by the Israeli military, but a spokesperson said that it wasn’t necessary to share further details.
“This would reveal sources in the operation,” he said. “We gave information to UNRWA about employees that worked for UNRWA that are members of Hamas.”
Joshua Levine, a spokesperson for the Israeli mission to the U.N., pointed out to France 24 that UNRWA had “received some type of evidence to terminate the employees, obviously they would not have done that if they did not receive some type of evidence.” He added that he was unsurprised that some of UNRWA’s employees were terrorist operatives.
It was not immediately clear if the full report had been shared with Israel’s allies, but its claims were called “highly, highly credible” by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week. At that press conference, Blinken acknowledged that the U.S. hadn’t “had the ability to investigate” the claims independently.
Lazzarini told the Financial Times that the donor states’ cuts had been “rash” and “irrational,” and that after multiple conversations with foreign ministers, he believed some were “looking at ways to re-evaluate the situation and to go back.”
In the face of some $440 million in aid drying up, some countries have doubled down on their commitment to Gaza. The Norwegian government has refused to halt donations, with Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide telling NPR last week that it would be tantamount to collective punishment.
Though Norway was as “shocked and appalled” as anyone by Israel’s claims, Barth Eide said, “cutting funds now is really the wrong moment because we're talking about millions of people in extreme humanitarian distress.”
Other countries like Portugal and Spain have also indicated that they will continue to back UNRWA, with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares telling lawmakers on Monday that they would send the agency an additional $3.7 million in aid.
“UNRWA’s situation is desperate,” he said, according to Reuters, “and there is a serious risk that its humanitarian activities will be paralyzed in Gaza within a few weeks.”