The United Nations agency that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, said on Friday it had dismissed several workers accused of being involved in the Hamas-led terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 and had launched an investigation into the allegations.
The U.S. State Department said it had “temporarily paused additional funding” to the agency, noting the allegations involved 12 UNRWA workers.
U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, spoke on Thursday with the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, and called for “a thorough and swift investigation,” the state department said. Mr. Blinken also told the U.N.’s leader that the United States was asking Israel, which made the initial allegation, for more information.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, said in a statement that he had immediately dismissed the UNRWA workers to “protect the Agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance.” He added that any UNRWA worker who was involved “will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.” He did not say how many UNRWA workers had been accused.
“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,” he said. “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.”
UNRWA, or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is one of Gaza’s largest employers, with around 13,000 staff members who drive the enclave’s education, health and food assistance operations. During the war, it has played a critical role in overseeing the distribution of food and medical aid in Gaza.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, the E.U.’s top diplomat and vice president of the European Commission said he was “extremely concerned” about the allegation that U.N. employees had been involved in the terrorist attacks. He said that the Commission was in contact with UNRWA and expected it to take immediate measures against the staff involved.