These messages in the UNRWA chat after the October 7

These messages in the UNRWA chat after the October 7 massacre: “Pray for the martyrs”

The latest: “What is the situation in the Khan Younis industrial area?”; “Who knows how I can register to receive blankets?”; “Does anyone have any idea what the salary will be?” We translate the latest news. All of them are requests for help or explanations about what is happening in the Gaza Strip. “Where will they relocate me?” asks a woman. “I can’t find a family,” one man posted. We log in to the Unrwa Gaza Telegram channel, an unofficial chat with 3,200 members made up mostly of staff from the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

Before the allegations of collaboration with Hamas among UNRWA staff, the Geneva-based non-governmental organization Un Watch published a dossier saying that the chat we are currently reading was flooded with anti-Semitic messages immediately after the October 7 massacre They praised “the great work of the terrorists.”

The Swiss NGO – whose job is to monitor the work of the United Nations and which has always been close to Israel – published images of some of the offending posts, complete with name, surname and occupation, via the user's Twitter account of its director. “If you don’t leave the bombed areas, you will become human shields,” writes a professor. “What Hamas did on October 7th was better than anyone could have imagined,” another posted. “Pray for our martyrs.” And so on. Between a file shared for the next lesson and advice on how to cope with the cold night in the refugee camp, words and videos appear supporting the terror, violence and martyrdom of the militiamen.

Both UNRWA and the United Nations promise a thorough investigation into the case.
Israel has always accused the refugee agency of running indoctrination centers and hiding weapons and terrorists on its premises. But as the New York Times writes, during these years of conflict the Israeli government has “often favored the behind-the-scenes work of UNRWA” because of its ability to maintain some stability in the Gaza Strip, he told New York's York newspaper Anne Irfan, Palestinian refugee rights expert at University College London.

We speak to S., a humanitarian worker from Gaza, who asks to remain anonymous because what he says is “too harsh a truth,” he writes on WhatsApp. He works for an international agency and is currently in a refugee camp with his family. He leaves us a long voice message: “For us Gazans, UNRWA means school, food, health.” These chats don’t surprise me. Most of the employees are Palestinians from Gaza. That means that they lived here, that they lost a brother, a mother.” S. asks us why we are so surprised by these sentences against Israel: “Read their chats too.” He seems to understand certain words , even if they come from United Nations employees: “The majority of operators do not praise Hamas.” “I understand the anger of my people, not terrorism,” he specifies.

Meanwhile, notifications continue to come in from the Unrwa Gaza Telegram channel, all but one of the messages in Arabic. A user makes very strong accusations in English. He writes and the group administrator deletes. It must be someone who lives on the other side of the Strip. The last message: “UNRWA terrorist”. Deleted.