US says it cannot independently verify Israel's UNRWA claims

Israel has accused a dozen people employed by the UN agency of being involved in the deadly attacks on October 7

People walk past the damaged Gaza city headquarters of the UNWRA. AFP
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A US intelligence report has found that Israel's claims that UNRWA staff members in Gaza took part in the deadly Hamas attack on Israel last October cannot be independently verified.

The US National Intelligence Council said in a report last week that it had “low confidence” that staff at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees took part in the violence in southern Israel on October 7, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The “low confidence” conclusion means that the US intelligence community believes Israel's claims may be plausible but that American agencies could not independently confirm them.

Israel has accused a dozen people employed by UNRWA of being involved in the Hamas-led attacks that, according to Israeli figures, killed about 1,139 people.

The UN fired some of the members mentioned in the allegations. Others have died since Israel began its military operations in Gaza.

The claims led to the US and other countries freezing funding for the agency, which is responsible for delivering vital humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and countries in the region.

The report added that although UNRWA regularly has to co-ordinate with Hamas to operate in Gaza, this does not mean the UN agency is directly collaborating with the militant group.

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The intelligence report's findings are in stark contrast to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's remarks in January, in which he said that the accusations against UNRWA were “highly, highly credible”.

The Journal also reported that Israel has not “shared the raw intelligence behind its assessments with the US” despite the strong security relationship between the two countries.

Israel has shared a dossier of sorts outlining its accusations, alongside details of where their evidence stems from, with the US and several western news organisations.

The UN has started an independent investigation into UNRWA to verify Israel's claims and take action as needed.

However, the UN and UNRWA leadership say Israel has not shared any evidence to aid in the investigation.

“We are asking now the state of Israel to fully co-operate to provide the evidence to the investigation team,” UNRWA director Philippe Lazzarini told Haaretz on Wednesday.

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Updated: February 22, 2024, 6:50 AM