UNRWA Staff Allegedly Coerced by Israel to Falsify Hamas Links, Says Report

By The Media Line Staff

In a detailed report reviewed by Reuters, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the body responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees, disclosed alarming allegations of coercion and mistreatment of its staff by Israeli authorities. Some UNRWA employees who were recently released from Israeli detention reported being pressured to falsely claim that the agency has links to Hamas and participated in the October 7 attacks. The agency’s communications director, Juliette Touma, announced plans to distribute the findings, documented in an 11-page, unpublished report, to both UN and external human rights organizations, emphasizing the necessity of investigating human rights violations post-conflict.

The report details the detainment of several UNRWA staff members by the Israeli army, outlining severe allegations of abuse, including physical beatings, waterboarding, and threats to family members. These claims extend beyond the agency’s personnel, with broader accusations from Palestinian detainees of beatings, humiliation, sexual violence, and deaths in custody due to medical negligence.

UNRWA finds itself at the core of a crisis following Israeli allegations that a dozen of its Gaza staff were involved in the Hamas-led attacks on Israel in October, leading to a significant suspension of funding from 16 countries, including the United States. This financial blockade, jeopardizing $450 million, plunged the agency’s operations into uncertainty, although some nations, like Norway, hint at a possible resumption of contributions.

Israel’s accusations are part of what the head of UNRWA deems a targeted campaign to cease the agency’s operations, a sentiment echoed amidst the ruins of its infrastructure in Gaza and critical comments from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli military, in response to inquiries regarding the allegations, maintained its adherence to national and international laws concerning detainee rights, committing to investigate any specific complaints of misconduct. However, it suggested that freed detainees might be under Hamas influence to denounce Israel.

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