Austria Suspends Payments to UNRWA After Allegations of Hamas Involvement

PeopleOther ♦ Published: January 29, 2024; 15:21 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria has suspended its payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) following serious allegations. It is alleged that employees of the organization may have been involved in a terrorist attack by Hamas on 7 October. The Austrian government is calling for a comprehensive and swift investigation into these allegations by UNRWA and the United Nations. Payments to UNRWA will remain suspended until full clarification and clarity on the consequences.

The situation in Gaza, including in refugee camps, is challenging for the civil population. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / מינוזיג - MinoZig/ CC BY-SA 4.0 (

The New York Times reported that new details have emerged about the allegations, including the involvement of UNRWA staff in the kidnapping of a woman from Israel and a massacre in a kibbutz. A total of twelve UNRWA employees are accused, ten of whom have been identified as Hamas members. They are said to have helped or supported Hamas in the attacks on October 7.

According to the dossier now analyzed by the "New York Times", the accusations are based on information from the Israeli secret service. Among other things, it traced the movements of six UNRWA employees within Israel on October 7 using their telephones. Others had their telephone conversations monitored in which they discussed their involvement in the Hamas attack. One had been asked by text message to bring rocket-propelled grenades that had been stored in his house.

Austria suspends payments to UNRWA

The Austrian Foreign Ministry has called for a comprehensive investigation and for the United Nations to be above criticism. Austria has suspended all contributions to UNRWA until the allegations are fully clarified and the consequences are clear. Austria's contribution to UNRWA is divided into an annual contribution of around 400,000 euros and project-related contributions of three million euros per year for a health project. The Austrian Foreign Ministry assured it is acting in coordination with international partners.

Despite the suspension of payments to UNRWA, Austria is continuing its humanitarian aid for the suffering civilian population in Gaza and has provided 13 million euros for this purpose since October 7. Other countries, including the USA, Germany and the UK, have also suspended their funding for UNRWA. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has announced consequences and a review of the allegations.

The EU has also called for a review by independent experts appointed by it before any further funding decisions are made for UNRWA. UNRWA, which was founded in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees, employs more than 30,000 people and provides basic services such as education and healthcare for around 5.9 million Palestinians.

UNRWA takes first measures

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini has terminated the contracts of several UNRWA staff involved in the horrific attacks on Israel on October 7. The agency has pledged to launch an investigation to uncover the truth and hold all staff involved accountable, including through criminal prosecution.

Lazzarini reiterated UNRWA's condemnation of the attacks and called for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages and their safe return to their families. The accusations come against the backdrop of over 2 million people in Gaza being dependent on UNRWA's life-saving assistance since the beginning of the war.

Lazzarini emphasized that anyone who betrays the fundamental values of the United Nations is also betraying those who serve in Gaza, the region and around the world. According to the organization, it now cares for around 5.9 million refugees. In the Gaza Strip alone, the aid organization employs around 13,000 people. It is also active in Jordan and Lebanon, among other places.

Austrian MFA