UNRWA closing would be ‘disaster’ says boss of UNRWA

There are ‘absolutely no other U.N. agency or international NGOs’ that can replace the terror-linked organization, Philippe Lazzarini claimed.


UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini addresses media after he briefed diplomats on the situation in Gaza, at the United Nations Offices in Geneva, on February 13, 2024. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

(JNS) Calls to dismantle the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees are “short-sighted” and terminating the organization’s mandate would be a “disaster” for the Gaza Strip, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on Tuesday.

There are “absolutely no other UN agency or international NGOs which have been tasked over the last two decades to provide government-like services like education to hundreds of thousands of children,” Lazzarini claimed after meeting UN member state representatives in Geneva.

“If we want to give a chance to any future [post-conflict] transition to succeed, we need also to make sure that the international community has the tools, and one of the tools is UNRWA,” the Swiss-Italian bureaucrat added.

“Maybe after this cataclysm which has hit the region in Gaza, it might be time now to genuinely find a political solution, and it would be a disaster that, just before it, we get rid of … UNRWA,” he said.

On Monday, Lazzarini rebuffed calls for his ouster in the wake of mounting evidence of the UN agency’s ties to Hamas. “I have no intention to resign,” he stated following meetings in Brussels.

UNRWA has been embroiled in scandal since last month’s revelation of the involvement of at least 12 of its employees in Hamas’s October 7 massacre of some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, in Israel’s northwestern Negev.

One of the organization’s workers is accused of kidnapping a woman, another of participating in the Kibbutz Be’eri massacre in which nearly 100 people were murdered, and a third of distributing ammunition to terrorists.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said on January 30 that intelligence “indicates that out of approximately 12,000 UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip, about 10% are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives, and another 50% are first-degree relatives of a Hamas operative.”

Late last week, Israeli forces exposed a Hamas data center underneath the Gaza headquarters of UNRWA, replete with servers, electricity, a backup power station and living quarters for terrorists.

Israel Defense Forces soldiers have also found missiles hidden among UNRWA relief supplies, while aid sacks marked with its logo were found filled with dirt and used in the lining of Hamas terror tunnels.

“UNRWA is totally infiltrated [by] Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a visiting delegation of UN ambassadors on January 31.

Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the creation of an independent panel to investigate the accusations. While Israel plans to cooperate, it warned on Tuesday that “the mandate as it stands right now is too broad.

“This is not a mandate that helps to check to ensure how you don’t deploy terrorists in the future, how you don’t have … hundreds of tunnels under UNRWA schools, under their main headquarters,” Israeli Ambassador in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar warned.

“The mandate needs to be more concise,” Eilon Shahar told reporters in the Swiss city, calling for the UN inquiry to include experts who can look into UNRWA’s counterterrorism vetting procedures.

The panel, led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, is scheduled to launch its two-month probe on Wednesday.

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