Israel ‘yet to give any evidence’ UN staff were linked to Hamas massacre

A woman carries a small child away from a burning car with police on either side of her
Israeli police help a woman to safety during the Oct 7 attacks by Hamas - Tsafrir Abayov/AP

Israel has refused to cooperate with a United Nations investigation into the country’s claim that members of the UN Palestinian refugee agency were involved in the Oct 7 attacks.

A dozen workers from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) have been accused of supporting the massacre of 1,200 Israelis by distributing ammunition, abducting hostages and coordinating transportation.

The allegations, which first surfaced on Jan 26, resulted in the US, UK and 14 other countries freezing funding for UNRWA. Days later, the UN launched an independent investigation, run from its headquarters in New York, to examine the claims.

However, UN investigators have yet to receive any evidence from the Israelis, according to three sources with knowledge of the probe, despite this week spending “several days” in the country on a fact-finding mission.

Officials from the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services were invited to Jerusalem by the Israeli government to “advance the investigation”, a UN spokesman told The Telegraph ahead of the mission.

The expectation was that the team would speak directly to Israeli officials and those involved in compiling a dossier of intelligence that allegedly supports the claims against UNRWA’s staff.

Two men stand on top of a tank near a razor-wire fence, one holding a Palestinian flag
Palestinians celebrate destroying an Israeli tank during the Oct 7 attacks by Hamas - Yousef Masoud/AP

Although the UN’s investigators have since left the country without any substantial evidence to support Israel’s claims, their work remains ongoing, a UN spokesman said, with a report to be finalised and shared privately with António Guterres, the Secretary-General, in the coming weeks.

Israel’s intelligence is said to include geolocation data taken from the employees’ mobiles, as well as intercepted SMS texts and phone calls allegedly implicating UNRWA staff in the Oct 7 attacks.

The Telegraph was passed this information over the phone by an Israeli official but has not seen or verified the contents of the dossier.

Israel’s own allies have similarly been kept in the dark. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had not shared the raw intelligence behind its assessments with the US, despite the strong security ties between the two countries.

On Thursday, the European Union’s top humanitarian aid official also said he had seen no evidence from Israel to support its accusations against UNRWA’s staff.

The UN’s investigation has been active since Jan 29. Before they visited Israel, officials spent two weeks in Jordan, where UNRWA has its headquarters, interviewing staff and reviewing operations.

One worker sits on a palette loaded with sacks of flour marked with the UN crest while another unloads them
Relief workers at the UNRWA centre in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip - AFP

Completion of the investigation is eagerly awaited by the multiple UNRWA donors which withdrew their funding in the wake of Israel’s allegations, leaving the agency with a $450 million gap in its budget.

Although Britain and the US are waiting to receive the findings of the investigation before choosing whether to restore funding, several other donors have already resumed payments, including Canada and Australia.

Chris Gunness, a former UNRWA spokesperson, said the Israelis’ failure to provide any intelligence to UN investigators makes it “impossible for them to make conclusive findings”.

He added: “In this case, one has to wonder why Israel is not handing it over. If the Israelis had conclusive proof of UNRWA’s involvement in the 7/10 attacks, they would have handed it over. Absent this, one is forced to conclude that the evidence is simply not there.”

The Israeli government was approached for comment but did not respond.

Alongside the UN’s investigation, a separate review has been commissioned into UNRWA’s mechanisms for dealing with neutrality breaches and investigating serious staff allegations. Its preliminary findings are also expected to be published by the end of the month.

Lead investigator Catherine Colonna, the former French foreign minister, is understood to have visited the agency’s offices in Amman this week.

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