Knesset Advances Legislation Labeling UNRWA as ‘Terror Organization’

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Palestinians burn tires and throw eggs during a protest outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza City against the delay in the reconstruction of their homes which were damaged following Israeli attacks on terror targets. Gaza, Apr 25, 2022. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS
By Pesach Benson • 29 May, 2024

Jerusalem, 29 May, 2024 (TPS) — The Knesset plenum approved a preliminary reading of legislation designating the UN Relief and Works Agency as a “terror organization” on Wednesday. The bill, which must clear further legislative hurdles, would pave the way for Israel to sever ties with the UN agency.

Specifically, the legislation authorizes the Foreign Ministry to make the final determination on the terror designation. The agency would then be stripped of its diplomatic immunity, tax-exempt status, and other legal benefits.

The bill’s preliminary reading passed by a vote of 42-6.

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Following the vote, MK Avigdor Liberman, who heads the right-wing opposition Israel Beiteinu party, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Today it is more clear than ever that UNRWA, which assisted in the murder, kidnapping and rape of Jews during the October 7 attack, does not assist refugees, but only the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.”

UNRWA has been under fire for months, with Israeli officials demanding the agency be stripped of its authority in Gaza and defunded amid revelations that members of the agency’s staff participated in Hamas’s October 7 attacks.

Israel’s largest bank froze UNRWA’s account in February over suspicious financial transfers that the agency failed to adequately explain. Israeli forces discovered a Hamas complex located directly under the UNRWA’s Gaza City headquarters. Computer servers belonging to Hamas were directly connected to UNRWA’s electricity system.

Soldiers have found weapons stored in UNRWA facilities on multiple occasions.

Jerusalem’s deputy mayor accused UNRWA of undermining Israeli sovereignty over the city, among other things.

Reports released by IMPACT-SE and UN Watch documented UNRWA employees expressing support for the October 7 attacks on social media.

The UN probed Israeli accusations against 19 UNRWA staffers. But to Israel’s ire, the investigations were dropped as UN officials claimed the evidence presented was insufficient. As a result, Israel is bypassing UNRWA in distributing humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian refugees are the only refugee population with its own dedicated UN agency. The rest of the world’s refugees fall under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Israeli officials have called for UNRWA to be closed and for Palestinian refugees to be brought under the responsibility of the UNHCR.

At least 1,200 people were killed, and 252 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the 125 remaining hostages, 39 are believed dead.

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