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Experts slam leaked UNRWA report claiming Israel coerced workers into making false statements: ‘Ridiculous’

JERUSALEM – The scandal-plagued United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) claimed in a report that some of its workers were pressured by Israel to falsely admit their connections to the Oct. 7 mass murder carried out by Hamas.

According to a report reviewed by Reuters on Friday, ‘Agency staff members have been subject to threats and coercion by the Israeli authorities while in detention, and pressured to make false statements against the Agency, including that the Agency has affiliations with Hamas and that UNRWA staff members took part in the 7 October 2023 atrocities.’

When asked if UNRWA can provide Fox News Digital with a copy of the UNRWA report and the names of the alleged UNRWA workers, Juliette Touma, a UNRWA spokesperson, said, ‘I am not able to send it. The report was leaked to the media.’

The UNRWA report claimed that Palestinian detainees described ‘allegations of abuse, including beatings, humiliation, threats, dog attacks, sexual violence, and deaths of detainees denied medical treatment.’

When asked if UNRWA considers the U.S. and EU designated terrorist entity Hamas a terrorist organization. Touma said, ‘It’s not listed by the United Nations as a terrorist organization.’ Hamas murdered 1,200 people on Oct. 7 in southern Israel, including over 30 Americans, and kidnapped more than 240 people.

Touma added ‘What I know is that we have written about the findings of the report on several occasions to the Israeli army and Israeli government.’

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said last month that dozens of UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7 massacre. In November, Fox News Digital reported that UNRWA employees celebrated the Hamas terrorist attack.

Fox News Digital reached out to the IDF and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) about the UNRWA report for comments. The IDF spokesman referred Fox News Digital to the MFA. An MFA spokesman told Fox News Digital the ministry is reviewing if any branches of Israel’s government received the UNRWA report.

Asked about the report and if in light of other nations refunding UNRWA, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, ‘The United States made an independent decision to temporarily pause additional funding to UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them. We continue to emphasize the critical role UNRWA plays in the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, and across the region, and do not want to see these allegations undermine efforts to provide life-saving humanitarian aid.’

The State Department spokesperson added, ‘We saw the announcements from the EU and Canada. UNRWA is the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza and plays a critical role for regional stability – it is critical it does not collapse.’

Sweden and Canada announced last week that they plan to pump tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of UNRWA. The State Department spokesperson declined to specifically address the UNRWA report.

Peter Gallo, an international lawyer and former Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) investigator at the U.N., provided Fox News Digital with his detailed analysis of the UNRWA report based on the Reuters article and Touma’s comments, calling them laughable.

Gallo said, ‘Even more hilarious is the statement by the UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma, who told Reuters that anyone with information on the allegations against UNRWA staff were encouraged to share it with the investigation. That has to be a contender for the best joke of the week.’

Gallo said, ‘These people live in Gaza, where every aspect of their lives since 2006 has been controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization that has no political opposition, because the penalty for opposing them is death and Juliette Touma thinks that ordinary Gazans should provide information – to an Organization that cannot protect them and that has been manipulated by Hamas for years – about individuals who, in the service of Hamas were involved in the murder, rape and mutilation over 1,400 unarmed civilians.’

Jonathan Conricus, senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former IDF spokesperson, said, ‘UNRWA staff have been exposed as members of Hamas and other terror organization in Gaza, as well as active participants in the atrocities of October 7.’

‘As long as UNRWA exists in the Gaza Strip, there will be no peace, no Palestinian self-definition, no stability, but only poverty, despair, and a tremendous waste of human potential.’

The former Israeli army spokesperson said, ‘UNRWA should be dismantled, and the international community should instead invest in building local organizations focused on the future prosperity of Palestinians in Gaza, instead of indoctrinating children to be terrorists, and forcing Palestinians to live in a perpetual state of victimhood and misery.’

He added, ‘UNRWA has failed Palestinians in Gaza, has failed in its humanitarian mission, has failed to implement its mandate, and has been exposed to be little more than a facade for the continued rule of Hamas over the Gaza Strip.’

According to Conricus, ‘UNWRA should be held accountable for the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, since UNRWA knowingly decided not to evacuate civilians and not to establish a humanitarian zone in southern Gaza when Israel requested it to do so. It has implemented a policy of prioritizing the continued oppressive rule of Hamas over the needs of the civilian population.’

David Bedein, director of the Center for Near East Policy Research and an expert on UNRWA’s curriculum, called the UNRWA report ‘ridiculous’ in an interview with Fox News Digital. He cited a 2009 report on his organization’s website that noted, ‘Since 1990 Hamas has dominated UNRWA’s unions in the Gaza Strip. In the elections held in June 2003, the Islamic Block affiliated with Hamas won 23 of the 27 seats, Hamas’s fourth consecutive victory in the UNRWA elections. That gave Hamas complete control of education, since the Islamic Block won all 11 of the teachers’ seats.’

Bedein claimed Hamas’ domination of UNRWA’s unions in the Gaza Strip continued after 2009.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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