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Israeli intelligence accused UN staff of kidnap and seizing body

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Twelve employees of a UN aid agency alleged to have played a part in the October 7 attacks on Israel included one who kidnapped a woman and another who seized the body of a slain soldier, according to a leaked Israeli intelligence assessment.

A third employee of UNRWA, the aid agency for Palestinian refugees, allegedly took part in the fighting near the Be’eri kibbutz, according to Israeli intelligence, while a fourth was active around Re’im, not far from the site of the Nova musical festival massacre.

Nine of the 12 worked as teachers in UNRWA-run schools, said a person familiar with the Israeli intelligence.

The allegations were made in a dossier Israel shared with US officials last week. That led the US UK, Germany and several others over the weekend to suspend funding to the body, imperilling the provision of humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza where Israel is conducting a more than three-month air and land offensive against Hamas.

Seven of the 12 UNRWA employees named in the report are alleged to have played an active role in the cross-border assault into Israel, while the rest gathered in military staging areas in Gaza ahead of October 7.

The leaked report also claimed that 190 Gazan employees of the UN aid agency in the territory are militant operatives of Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

UNRWA, which has 13,000 employees in Gaza and 30,000 staff overall, is the primary agency for administering aid as well as running schools and hospitals for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, including Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli allegations were based on intelligence, documents and identification cards collected since the start of the Gaza conflict, according to the person with knowledge of the dossier.

A UNRWA spokesperson declined to comment pending the results of the UN’s internal investigation.

UN secretary-general António Guterres said in a statement on Sunday that he was “horrified” by the accusations against the 12 UNRWA employees. The employment of nine had been terminated, one was no longer alive and the status of the two others was still being clarified, he said.

The top UN chief, however, pleaded with world leaders to continue funding the agency, saying: “Two million civilians in Gaza depend on critical aid from UNRWA for daily survival. I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations.”

UNRWA is providing vital support for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 26,000, according to Palestinian officials, and forced more than 85 per cent of the 2.3mn population to flee their homes. About 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack that sparked the war in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

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