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Israeli intelligence report details UNRWA workers’ alleged involvement in October 7 attack

Israel alleges that 13 employees of the United Nations’ main relief agency in Gaza were associated with Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and took part in varying capacities, ranging from involvement in kidnapping hostages to being told to set up an operations room, according to the summary of the intelligence shared with CNN by an Israeli official.

The Israeli official shared with CNN information and allegations Israel had gathered on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which employs around 13,000 people in Gaza and provides humanitarian support including education, healthcare and food relief, to the enclave’s population.

CNN has not seen the intelligence that underlies the summary of allegations and cannot corroborate Israel’s claims about individual staffers or about the agency’s dynamic with Hamas and other groups operating in Gaza. The summary does not provide evidence to support its claims.

Of the 13 UNRWA employees alleged to have been associated with the attack, the Israeli document alleges 10 were Hamas operatives, two were Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives and one is unidentified.

Israel believes that six UNRWA employees infiltrated Israel as part of the attack, four were involved in kidnapping Israelis, and three additional UNRWA employees were “invited via a SMS text to arrive at an assembly area in the night before the attack and were directed to equip with weapons,” but their presence on October 7 was not confirmed.

It also alleges that at least one UNRWA employee supplied logistic support to the attack.

This summary is part of what was provided to US Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, and Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues, Ambassador David Satterfield, in a Friday briefing with Israel’s head of military intelligence, according to the Israeli official.

When asked about the allegations, the spokesperson for UN Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric, said the UN had not received the intelligence shared with news outlets, and that UNRWA operates in Gaza with the mandate of the UN General Assembly, a voting body of member states.

“That information has not been given to us officially by the Israeli authorities,” he said.

UNWRA has already fired several employees in the wake of the allegations, which first emerged last week, hours after the UN’s top court ordered Israel to act immediately to prevent genocide in Gaza. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini also ordered an investigation into the claims, to be conducted by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services.

In a statement Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said nine UNRWA staff members at the center of the allegations had been fired. One other was dead and the identities of two others were still “being clarified.”

“Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” Guterres said, adding that an independent review is forthcoming.

Palestinian Hamada Abu Salima, 59 -years-old, lives in a tent on the ruins of his house that was destroyed by Israeli raids on January 28, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza. - Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images
Palestinian Hamada Abu Salima, 59 -years-old, lives in a tent on the ruins of his house that was destroyed by Israeli raids on January 28, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza. - Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

UNRWA has long been a target of Israeli criticism. Israel has accused the agency of anti-Israel incitement, which UNRWA denies. In 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to dismantle the UN body, saying it should be merged with the main UN refugee agency.

Israel has also accused Hamas of using UN facilities in Gaza, alleging in its intelligence summary that operatives of the militant group have used a UNWRA school as a hideout and used mass evacuations to conceal themselves among the fleeing civilians. The UN has reported several strikes on UNWRA schools and shelters since the war began.

UNRWA denies allegations that its aid is being diverted to Hamas or that it teaches hatred in its schools, and has questioned “the motivation of those who make such claims.” The agency has condemned the Hamas attack on October 7 as “abhorrent.”

The fallout of the allegations has seen several of the agency’s top donor countries, including the US, Germany and the UK, pull funding from UNRWA. Norway, Ireland, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are among the countries to have not halted funding.

UN officials warn that UNRWA would run out of money if countries suspend payment, threatening the organization’s humanitarian relief for millions of people.

As Israel’s offensive enters its fourth month, entire neighborhoods in Gaza have been wiped out, critical supplies are dwindling, and the entire Gaza population – about 2.2 million people – face starvation, dehydration and deadly disease.

At least 152 UNRWA staffers have been killed in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war began, according to the agency.

Since October 7, the death toll in Gaza has risen to 26,422 with 65,087 people injured, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry, which says the majority of the dead are women and children. CNN cannot independently verify the figures due to the difficulties of reporting from the war zone

A growing chorus of world leaders have warned against the mounting Palestinian death toll. Israel has strongly opposed calls for a ceasefire, maintaining that it needs to press on with its aim of eliminating Hamas.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Richard Roth contributed to this report.

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