Channel 4 says 'no evidence' for Israel's UNRWA claims in six-page dossier

Channel 4 says 'no evidence' for Israel's UNRWA claims in six-page dossier
The dossier was handed to UNRWA donors and prompted a dozen countries to suspend funding to the agency which is attempting to alleviate Gaza's crisis.
3 min read
06 February, 2024
UNRWA is the principle organisation that is responding to the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip [Photo by Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images]

A dossier sent by Israel to the donors of the UN's Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA), claiming that aid workers were involved in Hamas's 7 October attacks, contained no evidence to back their controversial claims, a UK broadcaster has reported.

The six-page dossier led over a dozen countries - including the US, UK, and Germany - to suspend funding to URNWA despite the document providing "no evidence to support its explosive new claim that UNRWA staff were involved in the terror attacks on Israel", according to Channel 4 News

"Intelligence information, documents and identity cards seized during the course of the fighting, it is now possible to flag around 190 Hamas and PIJ terrorist operatives who serve as UNRWA employees. More than 10 UNRWA staffers took part in the events of 07/10," the dossier reported.

It also included the images of the alleged staff members involved alongside a short description of each individual.

This appears to fall short of the hard proof that would usually be required to take drastic measures, such as suspending life-saving aid amid one of the worst humanitarian crises of this century.

Israel had initially claimed that 12 UNRWA staff members took part in Hamas' 7 October attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,140 people and took around 250 hostages.

However, inconsistencies have since appeared in Israel's narrative, with documents shared with Sky News by Israel naming 6 rather than 12 staff as allegedly involved in the attacks. No explanation has been provided yet for this.

UNRWA Director of Communications Juliette Touma told Channel 4 News that UNRWA sacked the staff allegedly involved because of the seriousness of the allegations as part of efforts to protect both the agency's reputation and minimise the harm to its humanitarian response to Israel's war on Gaza.

She added that it was a surprise that so many UNRWA donors suspended funding before the results of an investigation into the claims were released.

On Monday UN Chief Antonio Guterres announced that an independent panel had been created to "assess whether the agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made".

The panel is led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and will work alongside the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

It is due to submit an interim report in late March and a full public investigation by late April.

Alongside the panel, the UN's oversight office is investigating Israel's claims against UNRWA staff in a separate investigation.

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According to UNRWA representative in Lebanon Dorothee Klaus, a preliminary report into the findings should be complete by early March.

Amid the investigations, UNRWA chief Phillipe Lazzarini has been scrambling to fill the current gap in funding for the agency that has been caused by the suspension of funding by major donors.

His efforts have seen him travel to the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait in a bid to plug the funding shortfall that will see UNRWA having to suspend its operations by early March at the latest.

The funding crisis has prompted concerns within Gaza over the ability of the agency to manage the humanitarian crisis, as well as sustain its other operations across the Middle East, which sees it manage Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Israel has so far killed 27,585 Palestinians since the start of its operations in the enclave, with a further 66,978 wounded, according to Gaza's health authorities.