Israel Claims Audio Tapes Prove UN Teachers Were Complicit in Oct. 7

Reuters/Gali Tibbon/Pool
Reuters/Gali Tibbon/Pool

The Israeli government released audio recordings on Monday purportedly implicating two United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) teachers in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

In one of the alleged phone call recordings, a man identified by the Israeli government as a UNRWA-employed elementary school teacher in Gaza tells a second speaker that he is “inside with the Jews.” The location he is referring to in the calls is not clear, and the second speaker is not named.

In the second tape, another alleged UNRWA teacher says that he “caught” a female captive. “I was there,” he says to a second unidentified speaker. “They took action for liberation, god willing… we brought what we could.”

The authenticity of the recordings, which the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared on Twitter with English subtitles aimed at English-speaking audiences, have not been independently verified by The Daily Beast. Questions have been raised about the authenticity of previous recordings that the Israeli government has released regarding the war.

The Israeli government released the alleged phone call recordings weeks after accusing UNRWA workers of participating in the Oct. 7 massacre. Israel reportedly went to the United Nations with the allegations, but did not share evidence on the accusations, only offering information verbally. The UN fired several employees in response, and launched an investigation to look further into the allegations. The probe is ongoing and the reviewing body is expected to submit a final report in late March.

The UN body reviewing the allegations said on Thursday that it is still waiting to receive “materials” from the Israeli authorities. Staff from the organization, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), plans to travel to Israel to obtain information from Israeli authorities, a UN spokesperson said.

In the meantime, multiple countries—including the United States—suspended their funding to the relief agency, even as the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in Gaza. U.S. officials have expressed concerns over the allegations and are waiting on the UN to complete its investigation.

The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres has requested that countries reconsider resuming funding, as aid shortfalls are hampering UNRWA’s relief work in Gaza.

UNRWA commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, called the move a “collective punishment” that could have been avoided.

“Our humanitarian operation, on which 2 million people depend as a lifeline in Gaza, is collapsing,” Lazzarini said. “I am shocked such decisions are taken based on alleged behavior of a few individuals and as the war continues, needs are deepening and famine looms. Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment.”

U.S. Pauses Funding to U.N. Aid Agency in Gaza Over Alleged Ties to Hamas

Some have reconsidered suspending aid to UNRWA in the weeks since the allegations were made. The European Union announced in recent days that it will resume providing €50 million worth of aid to UNRWA this week. A UN spokesperson said they were still waiting on Israel to provide intelligence on the matter early this week, according to DW.

The European Commission noted that it supports the UN’s investigation into the allegations against UNRWA staff, but President Ursula von Der Leyen added that the Palestinian people don’t deserve to suffer.

“We stand by the Palestinian people in Gaza and elsewhere in the region. Innocent Palestinians should not have to pay the price for the crimes of the terrorist group Hamas. They face terrible conditions putting their lives at risk because of lack of access to sufficient food and other basic needs. That is why we are reinforcing our support to them,” von Der Leyen said.

Israel on Monday doubled down on its allegations against UNRWA. Israel’s military accused 450 of UNRWA employees of belonging to terrorist organizations in a statement Monday.

"According to intelligence, over 450 terrorists belonging to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, mainly Hamas, are also employed by UNRWA,” the statement said.

The UN spokesperson Steph Dujjaric on Monday appeared to push back on the allegation, noting that Israel had raised no concerns when the UN provided it a list of UNRWA employees in recent months.

“Every year, we provide the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority the full list of all UNRWA staff who work for UNRWA in Gaza and the West Bank,” Dujjaric told reporters. “As far as we've been told, as far as I've been told, no red flags were shared with us by the Israeli authorities.”

Israeli Dossier Raises Questions About U.N. Staff’s Oct. 7 Involvement

Dujjaric told reporters on Monday that Israel has still not shared videos of allegations with the United Nations as of Monday, while answering a different question about the allegations.

The United Nations has been investigating a number of different incidents surrounding what happened on Oct. 7, and announced Monday there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas used rape and sexualized torture in its attack.

Hamas has previously claimed that it did not used sexual assault in its attack. But the investigating team “found clear and convincing information” that some of this abuse may still be ongoing and that some hostages have been raped or tortured sexually.

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