The Israeli government has taken a bold step in its escalating efforts to combat the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and its alleged ties to Hamas, the terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip. On Monday, the government ordered the expropriation of land occupied by UNRWA’s offices in East Jerusalem.
In parallel, Israel prohibited entry into its territory of special rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who had made comments about an attack on Gaza that Israeli authorities deemed “anti-Semitic.” The Israeli housing minister Yitzhak Goldknopf made the announcement, citing UNRWA’s support for Hamas and its involvement in a brutal massacre on October 7.
The measure will affect UNRWA’s offices in Maalot Dafna and Kafr Aqab, which are located in East Jerusalem informally annexed by Israel since 1967 and are considered part of the Palestinian territories under international law. Goldknopf argued that UNRWA “acted in service” of Hamas and even participated in the massacre, justifying his decision to evict the agency from all territories leased to Israel.
The Israeli authorities redoubled their criticism of UNRWA after it was revealed that some of its employees were being investigated for collaborating with Hamas in attacks against Israeli territory. This prompted a ban on entry into Israel for special rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who had criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s description of the Hamas assault on Israel as “the largest anti-Semitic massacre of our century.”
Albanese responded by tweeting that Israel’s ban was not new and that it should not detract from attention from Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. She also emphasized that statements like hers increase suspicion about UNRWA’s role in Israel’s view.
UN special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to report on human rights violations around the world. However, their investigations have raised concerns about their impartiality and their alleged ties to terrorist groups such as Hamas.