The European Union said on Friday it was “extremely concerned” by allegations that staff at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees were involved in Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.
The European Commission and foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also spoke a joint statement for UNRWA to “provide full transparency on the allegations and take immediate action against the personnel involved.”
UNRWA announced Friday that it was investigating the potential involvement of many of its staff in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis and sparked a war in Gaza that has left more than 26,000 Palestinians dead .
According to a declaration by the US State Department, the charges concern twelve UNRWA employees.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said Friday he immediately fired employees suspected of involvement “to protect the agency’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance” in the besieged Gaza Strip.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is ‘horrified by this news’ second to his spokesperson.
The United States responded by suspending funding to UNRWA while the investigation took place. The UN agency has played a vital role in ensuring that life-saving aid reaches the people of Gaza since the outbreak of war.
The EU executive meanwhile says it will “evaluate further steps” and “draw lessons” from the investigation’s findings.
European Neighborhood Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Janez Lenarčič he echoed calls for a transparent investigation.
EU development aid payments to the Palestinian territories were temporary suspended in response to the October 7 attacks, awaiting a review to ensure that no EU cash inadvertently ended up in the hands of Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the bloc.
Contracts worth 331 million euros were checked, without diverting funds to terrorist groups foundallowing development aid to flow again.
The EU is the largest donor of development aid to the Palestinian territories, with a significant portion of aid channeled through UNRWA, to support vulnerable and displaced families.
For the period 2021-2023, the EU contribution to UNRWA’s program budget amounts to €281 million.