The United Nations company charged with serving to refugees within the Gaza Strip doesn’t conduct intensive background checks on its workers, however yearly supplies a listing of its 1000’s of employees within the enclave to Israeli authorities, present and former officers say group. on Monday.
The group, referred to as UNRWA, entered disaster over the weekend after Israel on Friday accused 12 of the group’s workers of taking part within the October 7 Hamas-led assaults or their aftermath. A number of donor international locations, together with the US, have briefly suspended funding for the help group, elevating issues that entry to much-needed assist in Gaza will likely be reduce.
Juliette Touma, UNRWA’s communications director, stated the company just isn’t outfitted to conduct complete background checks on candidates, however she confused that it conducts reference checks and investigates issues raised about particular person staffers.
“We’re a humanitarian group, not a authorities,” she stated in an interview, noting that the Israeli authorities had not objected to its most up-to-date record of workers. The company employs about 13,000 individuals in Gaza.
Lior Haiat, spokesperson for Israel’s International Ministry, confirmed that UNRWA shares lists of workers with Israeli officers, however stated they contained minimal data and referred to workers many months earlier. Mr Haiat argued that it was UNRWA’s duty – not Israel’s – to display staff.
UNRWA, the most important assist company in Gaza, introduced on Friday it might hearth workers accused of participating within the assaults. (On Sunday, the U.N. secretary-general stated 9 had been fired, and the help company stated two have been useless.) UNRWA stated the U.N.’s high investigative physique had begun investigating the allegations.
Matthias Schmale, director of UNRWA operations in Gaza from 2017 to 2021, stated staff signal a pledge to stay impartial, and take part in recurring workshops that encourage abstention from political exercise or violence.
“I believe we did the very best we might in very tense political circumstances and with restricted sources,” he stated, including that the staff tasked with implementing neutrality in Gaza was halved throughout his time period attributable to price range cuts of the Trump administration. Tamara Alrifai, one other UNRWA spokeswoman, stated that after President Biden restored the company’s funding, a few of these positions have been diminished.
Nonetheless, Mr. Schmale stated those that violated the group’s insurance policies confronted swift penalties. Eight workers, he stated, have been fired beneath his look ahead to neutrality violations, their use of social media and bodily abuse. One worker, he stated, was found to be a member of Hamas’s navy wing after UNRWA employees found images proving their membership within the militant group.
Mr. Schmale himself has been embroiled in controversy. In 2021, Hamas accused him of constructing feedback that minimized the toll of Israeli assaults throughout a quick battle in Gaza that yr, and amid protests he was transferred by UNRWA. He later walked again and voiced the feedback sorry about them.
He stated Monday that self-discipline is the “finest deterrent” in opposition to neutrality violations, noting that Palestinians in Gaza need to hold their jobs on the UN, particularly due to extreme unemployment within the space. The small enclave, house to greater than two million individuals, had an unemployment charge of virtually 50 % earlier than the battle.
— Adam Ragon reporting from Jerusalem