In a statement on Sunday, the UN chief said that the Organization is promptly responding to the extremely serious allegations that several UNRWA personnel were involved in the 7 October terror attacks in southern Israel.
An investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the highest investigative body in the UN system, was immediately activated.
“Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” Mr. Guterres said.
“The Secretariat is ready to cooperate with a competent authority able to prosecute the individuals in line with the Secretariat’s normal procedures for such cooperation,” he added.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini had previously announced on 17 January a full, independent review of the agency.
Out of the 12 individuals implicated, nine were immediately identified and terminated by the UNRWA head. One is confirmed dead, and the identities of the remaining two are being clarified.
Vital humanitarian efforts at risk
Over two million civilians in the Gaza Strip depend on lifesaving aid provided by UNRWA. The Agency operates shelters for over one million people and has been providing food and healthcare since the start of the conflict.
However, its current funding is insufficient to meet all requirements to support them in February.
Acknowledging the concerns of the countries that halted funds and expressing his own horror at the accusations, Mr. Guterres strongly appealed to the governments that suspended contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations.
“The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences. But the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized,” he said.
“The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met.”