"For years, international relief workers and the Israeli military have reported weapons caches occasionally found in schools operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the organization that for decades has provided schooling, healthcare and other assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza.
They learned of underground tunnels beneath UNRWA facilities and the theft by Hamas of agency-provided fuel and aid. Some had run-ins with teachers over textbooks promoting the hatred of Jews and Israel.
In 2014, part of the parking lot at the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza began sinking, likely from a Hamas tunnel dug beneath. ‘No one talked about what was causing the collapse,’ a former UNRWA official said, ‘but everyone knew.’
Suspicions that Hamas and other militant groups wielded untoward influence over UNRWA spread worldwide this week after Israeli intelligence reported that a dozen employees of the U.N. agency allegedly participated in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
What began as a small agency providing tents, food and other emergency relief for refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war has grown into an organization with a staff of 30,000 people, nearly all Palestinians, operating in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Western nations pay for most of its roughly $1.3 billion budget.
Its future is now in doubt. Western donors are questioning whether the agency has become irrevocably radicalized. The U.S. is among 18 countries that have suspended funding, including most of UNRWA’s largest givers.
Six UNRWA employees were allegedly among the thousands of Palestinians and Hamas militants who entered Israel on Oct. 7, in an assault that killed the most Jewish people since the Holocaust and sparked a war that threatens the region.
Several of the assailants were from UNRWA schools, including an Arabic teacher and a math teacher, according to Israeli intelligence reports viewed by The Wall Street Journal. Six other agency workers allegedly coordinated logistics for the assault, helped provide weapons, or were told to report to staging grounds for the attack.
Israeli intelligence estimates that 10% of the agency’s 12,000 staff in Gaza are affiliated or have membership in Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad and half the employees have a close relative with an active membership in the militant groups. Since Hamas has both a military and political wing, affiliation doesn’t mean membership in the armed group.
‘UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas,’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting Wednesday of U.N. ambassadors in Jerusalem, saying it was time for the agency to be scrapped and replaced by other U.N. or aid agencies that would operate in a neutral fashion. ‘We need such a body today in Gaza. But UNRWA is not that body.’...
Some teachers on UNRWA’s payroll voiced support for the Oct. 7 attack, according to conversations in a Telegram group for contract workers for the agency’s Gaza school system...
As Hamas mounted its attack, one group member wrote, ‘Our boys are inside on jeeps,’ and ‘God protect them and bring them back safe.’ Another person said she wanted to raise her children to emulate the Oct. 7 attackers...
UNRWA’s Gaza and West Bank classrooms teach the Palestinian Authority curriculum and use the same textbooks taught by Hamas. Several of the books inject doses of antisemitism and martyrdom into class exercises, the Journal found.
One textbook to teach fifth-grade reading comprehension features Palestinian militant Dalal Mughrabi, who joined a 1978 terrorist attack that killed 38 Israelis, including 13 children. Middle-school science students learn physics accompanied by images of Palestinians using slingshots to hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers..."