UNRWA has robust neutrality steps, Israel yet to back up claims, review says

A review of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has discovered that it has strong frameworks in order to make sure compliance with humanitarian neutrality principles though problems continue to emerge, in a report which could prompt some donors to review funding freezes.

The report, which came on Monday, also said Israel had yet to give helpful proof for its claim – based on a staff list it was given in March – that a significant number of UNRWA staff were members of terrorist organisations.

The United Nations appointed previous French foreign minister Catherine Colonna to lead the UNRWA neutrality review in February after Israel alleged that 12 UNRWA staff took part in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks, which lead to the Gaza war.

Israel brought up its accusations in March, saying over 450 UNRWA staff were military operatives in Gaza terrorist groups. Israel’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Colonna-led review.

In a separate investigation, a U.N. oversight body is looking into the Israeli allegations against the 12 UNRWA staff.  Reuters reviewed a copy of the Colonna-led review’s final report before it was made public.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accepted the recommendations, his spokesperson said, calling on all countries to actively support UNRWA as it is “a lifeline for Palestine refugees in the region”.

The report said Israel had made public claims based on an UNRWA staff list provided to it in March that “a significant number” of UNRWA staff were members of “terrorist organizations”. “However, Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence of this,” it said.