JUL 19, 2024 JLM 67°F 06:26 AM 11:26 PM EST
ICYMI: October 7 Victims File $1 Billion Lawsuit Against UNRWA

More than 100 survivors of Hamas’s Oct 7 attacks filed a $1 billion lawsuit against UNWRA for “aiding and abetting” Hamas

The suit, filed in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, says the UN agency “helped Hamas build up the terror infrastructure and personnel that were necessary to carry out the October 7 attack.”

Seven current and former commissioners-general, deputy commissioners-general and a director were named as defendants. The lawsuit argues that UNRWA knew that some of its staff were members of Hamas, had participated in the October 7 attack, and personally held captive Israelis. It further claimed that textbooks used in schools run by UNRWA helped radicalize Palestinians.

The suit’s lead plaintiff, 84-year-old Ditza Heiman, of Kibbutz Nir Oz. According to the suit, Heiman was held captive for seven weeks in the home of a Palestinian man who said he was a UNRWA teacher at a boy’s school. The suit added that Heiman was often given food with labels showing it was intended for UNRWA schools.

Heiman was released on November 28 during a temporary ceasefire.

“The fact that Hamas controlled Gaza was not an excuse for UNRWA to hire and fund terrorists, but instead should have ensured UNRWA took extra precautions,” Heiman said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “UNRWA knew it was hiring terrorists and that its funds and facilities were being used for violence, but UNRWA’s complicity in paying and empowering terrorists to teach and radicalize a generation of Gaza’s children was perhaps even more evil and tragic.”

Payment Scheme Raised Millions for Hamas

According to the lawsuit, although Israeli shekels were technically considered Gaza’s local currency, UNRWA staffers and families receiving financial disbursements were paid in US dollars. The suit argued that this practice was unique to UNRWA in Gaza, did not apply in areas in Judea, Samaria or Jordan where UNRWA also works, and is also inconsistent with the practice of the UN High Commissioner of Refugees. With more dollars circulating in Gaza, Hamas benefited through its network of money changers who received 10-20% percent of all currency exchanges.

“This payment scheme reduced the real value of aid to Gaza residents by $2-4 million per month, and increased Hamas’s monthly revenue by that amount,” the suit said.

The lawsuit further charged that Hamas “openly controlled 24 of 26 leadership positions in the UNRWA employee union,” and that at least 100 members of the agency staff personally participated in the October 7 attack.

The suit added, “UNRWA facilities and schools were used to store weapons and as entry points and supply for Hamas tunnels and bunkers. Hamas’s command and control center for the Oct. 7 attack was located directly beneath UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza City, and used power and servers from that facility to coordinate terrorist movements during the attack.”

UNRWA officials have not yet commented on the lawsuit.

On May 30, the Knesset approved the first reading of legislation authorizing the Foreign Ministry to designate UNRWA as a terror organization and strip it of its diplomatic immunity, tax-exempt status, and other legal benefits. On the same day, the Israel Lands Authority ordered UNRWA to vacate its Jerusalem offices over violations of its lease.

Israel’s largest bank froze UNRWA’s account in February over suspicious financial transfers that the agency failed to adequately explain.

Palestinian refugees are the only refugee population with its own dedicated UN agency. The rest of the world’s refugees fall under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Israeli officials have called for UNRWA to be closed and for Palestinian refugees to be brought under the responsibility of the UNHCR.

At least 1,200 people were killed, and 252 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the 116 remaining hostages, more than 30 are believed dead.

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