Families of October 7 attack victims sue UNRWA over 'helping' Hamas

UNRWA coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza (-)
UNRWA coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza (-)

Families of those killed in Hamas's October 7 attack inside Israel sued the United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees on Monday, alleging UNRWA facilitated the unprecedented bloodshed, according to court documents.

UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January, when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of involvement in the attacks that sparked the war.

That prompted many governments, including top donor the United States, to suspend funding to the agency, threatening its efforts to deliver aid in Gaza, although several have since resumed payments.

The lawsuit alleges that "UNRWA... spent over a decade prior to the October 7 Attack helping Hamas build up the terror infrastructure and personnel that were necessary to carry out the October 7 Attack."

It did so "by knowingly providing Hamas with the US dollars in cash that it needed to pay smugglers for weapons, explosives, and other terror materiel."

An independent review of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found some "neutrality-related issues" but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its main allegations.

Agency chief Philippe Lazzarini, who is named as a defendant in the legal action, has previously said Israel "must stop its campaign against UNRWA."

"The war in Gaza has produced a blatant disregard for the mission of the United Nations, including outrageous attacks on (UNRWA) employees, facilities and operations," Lazzarini wrote in an opinion article published by the New York Times last month.

- 'Assisting Hamas' -

The litigation was brought in New York because UNRWA uses banking facilities in the city, the court filings allege.

"Virtually all of the money UNRWA has spent in assisting Hamas to build up its terror infrastructure in Gaza came from UNRWA's New York city bank account at JPMorgan Chase and came into that account in the first place as a result of donations solicited in New York as a result of Defendants' travel to New York to solicit donors face to face there," it said.

UNRWA did not respond to a request for comment.

The toll from Hamas's attack grew Monday to 1,195, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Palestinian militants also took 251 people hostage in the attack, 116 of whom remain captive in the Gaza Strip, according to Israel.

Of those, the military says 42 are dead, including at least nine soldiers.

Israel's retaliatory invasion and bombardment of the Gaza Strip has resulted in the deaths of at least 37,626 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.