In response to the ongoing scandal surrounding UNRWA and its alleged ties to Hamas, the Israeli government has taken drastic measures. On Monday, it ordered the expropriation of land occupied by UNRWA offices in East Jerusalem and banned entry of special rapporteur Francesca Albanese into its territory.
The Israeli housing minister Yitzhak Goldknopf made the decision to expropriate land occupied by UNRWA offices in East Jerusalem. In a letter to Yaakov Quint, director general of Israel Lands Authority (ILA), Goldknopf ordered an immediate end to all agreements signed between the ILA and UNRWA in order to evict the agency from all territories leased to the state.
This measure would affect the offices of UNRWA located in Maalot Dafna and Kafr Aqab, which are informally annexed by Israel since 1967 and part of Palestinian territories under international law. Goldknopf justified his decision by saying that UNRWA “acted in service” of Hamas, an Islamist movement and terrorist group that governs Gaza Strip, and even participated in a brutal massacre on October 7. “My intention is to put an end to this,” he added.
Israeli authorities have been intensely critical of UNRWA after it became known that some of its employees were being investigated for collaboration with Hamas in attacks launched against Israeli territory earlier this month, which led to the current conflict. Francesca Albanese, an independent presumption expert appointed by the United Nations, last week criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s description of Hamas’ assault on Israel as “the largest anti-Semitic massacre of our century.”
In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel described Albanese’s comments as “scandalous” and announced that she was banned from entering Israel. Albanese reacted quickly on social media and reiterated his stance, tweeting: “Israel’s ban is not new; Israel has been banning special rapporteurs on Palestinian territories since 2008! This should not divert attention from Israel’s atrocities in Gaza.”
UN special rapporteurs are defined as voluntary and independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council, who report their findings on their investigations. However, due to the escalating scandal surrounding UNRWA and its suspected links with Hamas, there has been increased scrutiny about its role in Israel’s viewpoint that statements like those made by Albanese increase suspicion about its involvement.