UN Chief demands accountability for terror acts, urges aid for Palestinians
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged on Sunday to hold accountable any U.N. staff member involved in acts of terror, following allegations that some employees of the refugee agency participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Despite these troubling allegations, Guterres urged governments to maintain their support for the U.N. Refugee Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), noting that the funding pause by nine countries could jeopardize its vital work.
Guterres affirmed, “We will hold any U.N. staff member involved in terrorist acts accountable, including through criminal prosecution. The Secretariat is prepared to cooperate with any competent authority to prosecute these individuals, following our standard procedures for such cooperation.”
He also emphasized the importance of UNRWA's work, stating, “The tens of thousands of UNRWA staff, many working in extremely dangerous conditions, should not suffer for this. The critical needs of the vulnerable populations they assist must be addressed.”
In his first detailed remarks on the matter, Guterres disclosed that of the 12 UNRWA staff implicated in the reprehensible acts, nine were dismissed, one was confirmed deceased, and the identities of the remaining two were under verification.
Following Israel's allegations, countries including Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, the United States, Australia, and Canada suspended their contributions to UNRWA, a lifeline for many in Gaza. Guterres expressed his understanding of their concerns but appealed for the continuation of UNRWA’s operations, emphasizing their importance.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini adopted a firmer stance, criticizing the decision to penalize the agency and the community it serves due to allegations against some individuals. He underscored the irresponsibility of such actions, especially amidst war, displacement, and political crises in the region. Lazzarini called on these countries to reconsider their funding suspensions, highlighting the reliance of Gaza's population on this support and its significance for regional stability.