Israel’s torture of UNRWA Palestinian employees


ICNA CSJ

Date published: Fri, 15 March 24


After starving Palestinians in Gaza, Israel and its collaborator governments, such as the US, Canada, and the UK, designated the UN agency UNRWA (United Nations United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) a terrorist group. The US, Canada, and others then halted funding towards UNRWA. UNRWA supports around six million refugees who live in and outside of Palestine. The agency provides direct services to refugees, such as schools, healthcare centers, and social services. 

During the ongoing genocide of Gaza, UNRWA schools, clinics, and public buildings housed nearly 45% of the population in Gaza. Then in January, the US suspended funding to UNRWA after Israel’s campaign of designating UNRWA as housing “terrorists.” Several countries followed, included Canada, the UK, and Australia. Middle East Eye reported that in several cases of decision of governments to halt funding, governments did not actually see any evidence of the Israeli assertion. They say, “These revelations come as UNRWA, the main UN agency that supports Palestinians and the largest relief agency operating in Gaza, says it will have to suspend operations by the end of this month or in early March as a result of the funding freeze.” 

Israel alleges that a dozen of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees based in Gaza were involved in the October 7 attack on Israel. Israel shared the names of the 12 employees allegedly involved in the attack, but didn’t share any documents or reports. 

In March, UNRWA released in an unpublished report that several employees had been tortured, and coerced into confessing that the agency has Hamas links and that staff took part of the October 7 attack. UNRWA has said that Palestinian staff were tortured, enduring physical beatings, waterboarding, and threats of harm to family for a confession. 

“Agency staff members have been subject to threats and coercion by the Israeli authorities while in detention, and pressured to make false statements against the Agency, including that the Agency has affiliations with Hamas and that UNRWA staff members took part in the 7 October 2023 atrocities,” it says. 

Al Jazeera reports on the findings that Palestinian detainees were subject to use of a nail gun on prisoners’ knees, sexual abuse against men and women, and the insertion of an electrified metal stick into prisoners’ rectums. 

Those who are aware of the torture that took place at Guantanomo Bay will notice chilling similarities of the torture endured by those detained without any charge or trial. State usage of “terrorism” to detain, abuse, and torture detainees without any consequence is not a new concept – it’s one that the United States and Israel have engaged in frequently.

In both cases, detainees are held without a charge or trial. In Israel, over 1200 Palestinians are detained with no charge. Palestinians detainees, which include children, are tried in military courts. They are sentenced to long years in sham military trials, where most Palestinians don’t have access to defense lawyers or due process. Israeli citizens are tried in civil courts – signifying the apartheid system, where there is a two-tier justice system that discriminates against Palestinians.

The countries who have halted funding to UNRWA are set to make a decision if they should renew funding soon. We hope that they resume funding, as starvation in Gaza increases.