UNRWAWisam Hashlamoun/Flash 90

An independent UN review of UNRWA, the UN’s agency for “Palestinian refugees”, released its report on Monday.

The panel, headed by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, found "neutrality-related issues" in UNRWA but also claimed that Israel had yet to provide evidence for allegations that a significant number of its staff were members of terrorist organizations.

UNRWA remains "irreplaceable and indispensable to Palestinians' human and economic development," added the report, as quoted by the AFP news agency.

The review group was created after Israel said in January that 12 UNRWA staff participated in the October 7 Hamas attacks. In the weeks that followed, numerous donor states suspended or paused some $450 million in funding to UNRWA, though some of those countries have since resumed the funding.

Israel said that the UNRWA workers who participated in the Hamas massacre kidnapped a woman, handed out ammunition and actively taking part in the massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where 97 people were murdered.

Colonna's team was tasked with assessing whether UNRWA was "doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality," while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres activated a second investigation to probe Israel's allegations.

The review noted that "neutrality-related issues persist," including instances of staff sharing biased political posts on social media and the use of a small number of textbooks with "problematic content" in some UNRWA schools.

But it added "Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence" for a recent claim that UNRWA employs more than 400 "terrorists."

"Most alleged neutrality breaches relate to social media posts" which often follow incidents of violence affecting colleagues or relatives, the review found.

"One preventive action could be to ensure that personnel are given space to discuss these traumatic incidents," added the report, which was co-authored with three Nordic rights groups.

The report praised the progress made by UNRWA in preventing biased texts from being used in its schools, which but cited a recent assessment that found 3.85 percent of textbook pages contained content of concern.

These included "the use of historical maps in a non-historical context, e.g. without labeling Israel" referring to Israel as the "Zionist occupation" and "naming Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine."

Israel’s Foreign Ministry reacted with fury to the panel’s report.

“Hamas has infiltrated UNRWA so deeply that it is no longer possible to determine where UNRWA ends and where Hamas begins. More than 2,135 UNRWA workers are members of either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), while one-fifth of UNRWA school administrators are Hamas members,” said Affairs Ministry spokesperson Oren Marmorstein.

“The problem with UNRWA-Gaza isn't that of a few bad apples; it is a rotten and poisonous tree whose roots are Hamas,” he added.

“The Colonna report ignores the severity of the problem, and offers cosmetic solutions that do not deal with the enormous scope of Hamas' infiltration of UNRWA. This is not what a genuine and thorough review looks like. This is what an effort to avoid the problem and not address it head on looks like,” Marmorstein continued.

“Israel calls on the donor countries to refrain from transferring their taxpayers' money to UNRWA-Gaza, as these funds will go to the Hamas terrorist organization, and that violates legislation in the donor countries themselves. Israel calls on the donor countries to transfer their funds to other humanitarian organizations in Gaza.”

“UNRWA-Gaza is part of the problem and not part of the solution. There are other solutions. UNRWA cannot be part of the solution in Gaza not now, and not in the future,” concluded Marmorstein.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Passover in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)