UN stops, suspends probes into 5 UNRWA staffers accused by Israel due to lack of evidence

UN stops, suspends probes into 5 UNRWA staffers accused by Israel due to lack of evidence
UNRWA said there was a lack of evidence that five of its staffers were linked to Hamas and stopped or suspended investigations into them
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The UNRWA agency serves Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the wider Middle East [Getty/file photo]

A UN probe into Israeli allegations that 19 members of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) participated in the October 7 attacks has closed one case due to the absence of any evidence from Israel and suspended four others, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday.

Israel accused 12 of UNRWA's 30,000 employees of being involved in the cross-border attack last January, shortly after South Africa took Israel to the International Court of Justice, accusing it of carrying out a genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

The UN immediately fired the implicated staff members and launched an internal investigation, led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, to assess the agency's neutrality,

The Israeli accusations also lead some 15 countries to suspend funding to UNRWA including the US and the UK. Canada, Sweden, Japan, and other countries however, soon resumed their funds to the Palestinian agency due to insufficient evidence for Israel's claims and the desperate situation in Gaza.

In recent weeks, the UN received information on seven additional UNRWA staffers allegedly involved in the attack, leading to new investigations.

Dujarric said that of the initial group of 12 UNRWA members, one case was closed "as no evidence was provided by Israel to support the allegations against the staff member."

"We are exploring corrective administrative action to be taken in that person's case," he said.

In addition, investigations into three other staffers were suspended, "as the information provided by Israel is not sufficient."

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Regarding the seven fresh cases, one of them was also suspended due to a lack of evidence from Israel.

The other accused staffers remain under investigation, Dujarric said.

An interim report published in March found that "UNRWA has in place a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the Humanitarian Principle of neutrality."

But investigators "also identified critical areas that still need to be addressed," it said.

UNRWA is the largest aid organization in Gaza, employing around 13,000 staff in the territory where Israel's bombardment has killed at least 34,388 people, mostly women and children.