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UN Updates On Probe Into Allegations Of Staff Collusion During 7 October Attacks

A UN office investigating Israeli accusations that 12 staff members from UN Palestine relief agency UNRWA were involved in the 7 October Hamas-led attacks has closed one of the cases because Israel had not provided any supporting evidence, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said on Friday.

“We are exploring corrective administrative action to be taken in that person’s case,” he said, speaking during the daily press briefing in New York.

Meanwhile, eight staff remain under investigation by the UN’s internal oversight body, OIOS, which also suspended three cases “as the information provided by Israel is not sufficient for OIOS to proceed with an investigation”.

UNRWA is now also considering what administrative action to take in those three cases.

Immediate action taken

The accusations surfaced in January when Israel informed UNRWA of the alleged involvement of the staff members in the brutal assault on its territory. Some 1,200 people were killed and another 250 were taken to Gaza as hostages.

Of the 12 people implicated, UNRWA immediately identified and terminated the contracts of 10, while two were confirmed dead.

The UN Secretary-General immediately ordered OIOS to investigate, while an independent panel was appointed to conduct a separate assessment into whether UNRWA is doing everything to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they arise.

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The panel, headed by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, published its report on Monday which found that “the set of rules and the mechanisms and procedures in place [at UNRWA] are the most elaborate within the UN system”.

Seven more cases

Mr. Dujarric said the UN subsequently received information from Israel about seven more cases – five in March and two in April. One case has also been suspended pending receipt of additional supporting evidence, and OIOS are investigating the remainder.

“OIOS has also informed us that its investigators had travelled to Israel for discussions with the Israeli authorities and will undertake another visit in May. These discussions are continuing and have so far been productive and have enabled progress on the investigations,” he said.

No alternative to UNRWA

The initial Israeli allegations prompted 16 countries to stop contributing to UNRWA, which mainly relies on donations to fund its operations across five locations in the Middle East, including Gaza.

The agency is the largest humanitarian organisation in besieged Gaza, where more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, according to the authorities.

This week, Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said several donor countries “have come back”, and UNRWA has sufficient funding to keep operations running until the end of June.

Separately, UNRWA launched a $1.2 billion appeal to meet urgent needs in Gaza and in the West Bank, where violence is increasing.

“The past months proved that there is no replacement or alternative to UNRWA,” Mr. Lazzarini said on Wednesday, announcing the appeal.

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