Latest News 23-02-2024 14:40 9 Views

US intelligence confirms some claims about UNRWA staff ties to Hamas: report

A new U.S. intelligence assessment found it is likely that some employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) participated in Hamas' terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, but it also said the U.S. can't verify Israeli allegations that many United Nations workers have links to militant groups, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The Biden administration recently paused funding to the controversial U.N. agency, which supplies aid to Palestinian refugees, after Israel shared findings alleging that at least 12 UNRWA employees were 'involved' in the Hamas attacks and kidnappings that sparked the ongoing war in Gaza. The U.S. government had earmarked $51 million for fiscal 2024 prior to the pause.

'Israeli intelligence agencies said they concluded that 10% of all UNRWA workers had some kind of affiliation, usually political, with Hamas,' the Wall Street Journal reported. 'A far smaller number had ties to the militant wings of Hamas and another group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. UNRWA employs around 12,000 people in Gaza.'

In the new report, which the WSJ reported was completed last week, the U.S. National Intelligence Council said it assessed the allegations that 12 UNRWA staffers participated in the Oct. 7 attack as credible.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

The new intelligence assessment, as described by the officials to the Wall Street Journal, 'doesn’t dispute Israel’s allegations of links between some staff at UNWRA and militant groups, but it provides a more measured appraisal of Israel’s assertions than public statements by U.S. and Israeli officials.'

A spokesperson for the U.N. told Fox News Digital that 'in mid-January the Israeli Foreign Ministry communicated information verbally to our UNRWA colleagues in Jerusalem very serious allegations regarding 12 staff [members'] possible involvement in the 7 October Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.'

'Immediate action was taken by UNRWA. Since then, the Israeli authorities have provided no further information to the United Nations regarding alleged activities of staff members. Should information be provided, it will be analyzed quickly, and action will again be taken swiftly,' the spokesperson said.

An Israeli official told the Wall Street Journal that Israel wasn’t familiar with the U.S. assessment and said, 'We share intimate intelligence with our U.S. partners in all areas.' The official, who was briefed on the matter, was unaware of American requests for additional intelligence.

Fox News Digital reported this month that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched raids on Hamas facilities in Gaza, killing 120 terrorists, and discovered a 'significant' amount of assets and weapons, including inside a United Nations-affiliated building.

In a joint statement made with the Israel Security Agency (ISA), the Israeli military announced Saturday that the raids were conducted in northern Gaza over the past two weeks.

'The forces operated in the areas of Shati and Tel al-Hawa in northern Gaza,' the joint statement from ISA and the Israeli military said. 'Approximately 120 Hamas terrorists were killed, and 20 terrorist infrastructure sites were destroyed as part of the operation.' 

The IDF said the ISA initially led them to a tunnel shaft near a school run by UNRWA: 'The shaft led to an underground terror tunnel that served as a significant asset of Hamas' military intelligence and passed under the building that serves as UNRWA's main headquarters in the Gaza Strip.'

The Israeli military said it seized a 'wide variety of intelligence assets' while raiding the 700-meter-long tunnel, but they did not specify what exactly was found.

'The newly found intelligence will allow the forces to operate against additional Hamas targets,' the IDF said. 'The dismantling of the tunnel weakens Hamas' intelligence capabilities.'

That discovery ultimately brought the military to UNRWA's headquarters, where Israeli forces found that the UNRWA building supplied the Hamas tunnel with electricity.

The State Department and Department of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment. The National Security Council also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

A UNRWA spokesperson told Fox News Digital that they 'have not been presented with any evidence from the Israeli authorities. But given the fact that there is an investigation underway by the highest investigative authorities in the U.N., we invite any country, party or institution with information – including information available in the public domain – to provide it to the Office of Internal Oversight Services at U.N. headquarters to help advance this investigation.'

Fox News Digital's Andrea Vacchiano contributed to this report.


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