The U.S. is suspending additional funding to the UNRWA amid allegations its staff were involved in the Hamas attack. Pictured here, Palestinians arrive in southern Gaza after fleeing an Israeli offensive on Jan. 26, 2024.Fatima Shbair—AP

U.S. Suspends Funding to U.N. Agency Amid Claims Its Staff Were Involved in Hamas Attack

The United Nations fired several staffers at its Palestinian refugee agency over Israeli allegations that they took part in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, news that prompted the U.S., the U.K. and other countries to suspend funding.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is horrified by the news” that workers with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, may have been involved in the attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel, and urged the agency’s chief to refer the accused for potential prosecution, his office said in a statement Friday. According to the statement, there will be an “urgent and comprehensive independent review” of the agency.

The claims come as a black eye for UNRWA, which provides humanitarian assistance and protection to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. It has long been regarded with suspicion by Israel and Republicans in the U.S., who argue that it only fuels the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and money going to food, education and health care frees up Hamas to fund hostilities against Israel.

“These shocking allegations come as more than 2 million people in Gaza depend on lifesaving assistance that the agency has been providing since the war began,” UNRWA Director-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement Friday. “Anyone who betrays the fundamental values of the United Nations also betrays those whom we serve in Gaza, across the region and elsewhere around the world.”

Israel said it will seek U.S. and European Union support to halt UNRWA operations in Gaza. Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote in a post on X that his ministry wants to ensure the agency “will not be part of the day after.”

He urged the U.N. to take “immediate personal actions” against the UNRWA leadership.

While criticism over UNRWA’s role in the Israel-Palestinian conflict became even more charged after Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel, the group has also paid a heavy price in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, with more than 150 of its staff killed in the violence.

A vast majority of UNRWA’s 30,000 staff is Palestinian, with 13,000 of those in Gaza. The U.S. State Department said in a statement Friday that 12 UNRWA staff had been accused of links to the attacks.

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