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Israeli Defense Minister to diplomats: 'UNRWA has lost its legitimacy'

Middle East | February 2, 2024 12:23:15 AM IST
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Tel Aviv [Israe], February 1 (ANI/TPS): A delegation of UN ambassadors visiting Israel met with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who shared information about UNRWA staff participating in Hamas's October 7 attacks.

"UNRWA has lost its legitimacy to exist in its current form - funds from countries all over the world have been funneled through UNRWA and used to strengthen terror infrastructure, and to pay terrorists," Gallant said.

Israel demands that UNRWA be stripped of its authority in Gaza amid revelations that members of the agency's staff participated in Hamas's October 7 attacks on Israel. The US, European Union and 16 other countries have suspended funding for the agency.

Israel provided intelligence incriminating 12 staffers of their participation, including using UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) vehicles and facilities as 1,200 Israelis were massacred. The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported that one in 10 UNRWA employees is either an active member or has ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

UNRWA is not a legitimate aid organization but rather "Hamas with a facelift," Gallant said.

Gallant briefed the ambassadors on developments in the war in Gaza, stressing that the Israel Defense Forces will continue operating in Gaza until Israel's hostages are returned and Hamas is removed from power.

Discussing the situation along the Lebanese border, Gallant said that the window of time for Israel to ensure the security of its citizens and return 80,000 evacuated residents to their homes, is shrinking. He stressed that Israel prefers to resolve the problem through diplomatic channels, but is maintaining readiness. The Defense Ministry said on Thursday that 427 homes near the Lebanese border have been damaged by Hezbollah rocket fire since October 7, including 80 that took direct hits.

In response to questions, Gallant detailed Iran's aggression against Israel through its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The delegation is meeting with returned hostages, the families of hostages still being held, and with Oct. 7 survivors, as well as senior Israeli leaders. Their itinerary also includes visits to the Kerem Shalom crossing, Kibbutz Be'eri, Kfar Aza and the site of the Nova music festival in Kibbutz Re'im, as well as the Lebanese border and Tel Aviv's "Hostage Square."

The delegation includes the ambassadors of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Liberia, Romania, Ukraine and three members of the Security Council: Malta, Sierra Leone and Slovenia.

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas's attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. The number of men, women, children and soldiers held captive in Gaza by Hamas is now believed to be 136. (ANI/TPS)