United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on member countries to resume their funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), despite accusations from Israel that some of the group's employees participated in Hamas' bloody incursion late last year.
The U.S., Germany, U.K., Canada and at least five other countries have temporarily halted funding for the program. Israel released evidence showing that a dozen of the organization's employees in Gaza had participated in the massacre of 1,200 Israeli citizens by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023.
'While I understand their concerns – I was myself horrified by these accusations – I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA's operations,' Guterres said in a statement on Sunday.
'Of the 12 people implicated, nine were immediately identified and terminated by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini; one is confirmed dead, and the identity of the two others is being clarified,' he added. 'Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.'
'The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences. But the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized. The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met,' Guterres said.
The State Department under former President Trump cut ties with the UNRWA in 2018, but President Biden resumed the relationship shortly after taking office. He continued to increase spending for the organization, with funds exceeding $1 billion.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant praised the U.S. decision to suspend funding as 'an important step in holding UNRWA accountable.'
'At least a dozen UNRWA employees participated in the horrific attack conducted on Oct. 7: These are ‘humanitarian workers,’ with salaries paid for by international donations, with blood on their hands,' Gallant said in a press release following the State Department's announcement.
The funding cut follows growing allegations that started in December 2023 when an Israeli citizen taken hostage by Hamas said upon release that they had remained captive in the attic of a UNRWA teacher. Another hostage said a Gazan doctor – reportedly a pediatrician – helped hold another hostage captive for Hamas.
Fox News' Timothy H.J. Nerozzi and Peter Aitken contributed to this report.