UNRWA Is Imperiled by Accusations of Terrorism

Leaders of the largest United Nations agency in Gaza warned on Monday that it may soon run out of money as new allegations emerged about Hamas’s influence on the organization.

As U.N. officials fretted over the future of UNRWA, the main aid agency for Palestinians, Israeli officials debated whether it made sense to publicly air accusations that a group of the agency’s workers were involved in the Oct. 7 terror attack. Some Israeli military leaders believed it was a mistake to unleash a furor, according to three Israeli officials involved in the discussions, because the agency’s collapse would leave a huge administrative and logistical vacuum in the middle of a humanitarian crisis.

UNRWA plays a crucial role in Gaza — distributing food, water and medicine — and it is unclear who would fill the vacuum were it to collapse. Most of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are displaced from their homes, many are sheltering in centers and schools run by the agency, and it helps allocate the aid that arrives in Gaza each day.

Israel has charged that at least 12 employees of the agency — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees — participated in the Oct. 7 attack and that as many 1,300 employees are members of the group. The Oct. 7 assault ended with roughly 1,200 people dead and another 240 taken hostage, according to Israeli estimates.

The Israeli military provided the United States with a dossier alleging that roughly 10 percent of the agency’s 13,000 employees in Gaza are Hamas members. That assessment is derived from cross-referencing an UNRWA staff list with a directory of Hamas members that soldiers found on a computer during a recent operation inside Gaza, according to the military officials.

The allegations include evidence that one UNRWA worker kidnapped a woman and another took part in a massacre at a kibbutz. The United Nations is investigating the charges, which were first made public on Friday, and it has fired nine of the accused.

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