10% of UNRWA Staffers Tied to Terrorist Groups: Report

Hamas (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)
January 29, 2024

Roughly 10 percent of staffers with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the international body's aid group for Palestinian refugees, have ties to terrorist groups, according to a Monday Wall Street Journal report.

About 1,200 employees, 10 percent of the agency's 12,000 Gazan workers, are linked to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Journal reported, citing Israeli intelligence reports the Jewish state shared with American officials. The intelligence found that 49 percent of UNRWA staffers had close relatives with official ties to the groups, and 23 percent of male UNRWA employees had ties to Hamas, more than the average rate of 15 percent for the general Gazan male population.

Officials told the Journal that the employees they believed had ties to Hamas were "operatives," meaning they were involved in the terror group's military or political activity.

The intelligence documents, per the paper, were part of a briefing Israeli officials gave to their American counterparts days ago, alleging the participation of 12 UNRWA employees in Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks. The Biden administration suspended aid to the agency following the revelations. UNRWA said it fired those staffers.

The Journal's Monday reporting based on the intelligence provides new details about the alleged actions of the accused workers. One Arabic teacher reportedly was a terrorist commander, while another, a social worker, allegedly helped steal the corpse of an Israeli soldier and arranged munitions deliveries for the group. The intelligence also said a math teacher took a picture with a female hostage. Israeli officials said they assessed their intelligence by reviewing communication signals and cellphone records, as well as interrogating detained Hamas members and recovering documents from deceased terrorists.

"UNRWA’s problem is not just ‘a few bad apples’ involved in the Oct. 7 massacre," a senior Israeli government official told the Journal. "The institution as a whole is a haven for Hamas’s radical ideology."

The agency told the paper that it was carrying out an internal investigation.

UNRWA has long faced accusations that its employees aid terrorists or foment bias against Israel, and those allegations have intensified amid the Jewish state's war on Hamas in Gaza. A November report said that teachers with the agency celebrated the group's Oct. 7 attacks. Another from later that month—which UNRWA called "unsubstantiated"—said a teacher with the organization held a hostage in an attic.