US halts funds for UN body over allegations staff involved in Hamas attacks on Israel
The Biden administration announced Friday it was pausing funds for the United Nations body responsible for Palestinian refugees over allegations that 12 of its staff were involved in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks against Israel.
“The United States is extremely troubled by the allegations that twelve UNRWA employees may have been involved in the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement, referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a U.N. body dedicated to serving Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip.
“The Department of State has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”
The Biden administration delivered $75 million to UNRWA in October, bypassing a long-held congressional block on the funds over criticisms against the U.N. agency, in part over concerns Hamas members were employed by the organization.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said Friday that the body was launching an investigation into staff after Israeli authorities provided information that several employees of the organization participated in Hamas’s attack against Israel, in which fighters raided southern Israel, killing an estimated 1,200 people and taking 240 people hostage, more than 100 of whom are still in captivity and without communication.
Lazzarini said the agency had immediately terminated the contracts of the suspected individuals ahead of its investigation.
“Any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” Lazzarini said.
“UNRWA reiterates its condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the abhorrent attacks of 7 October and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages and their safe return to their families.”
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