The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) confirmed in a television interview that his group employs Hamas members in Gaza. "I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime," UNRWA head Peter Hansen told Canada's CBC television Sunday. Hamas has been declared a terror organization by the US and Canada, as well as the European Union.
"Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another," he said. In the interview, Hansen added that "whatever their political persuasion is" members of his staff are required to "behave in accordance with UN standards and norms for neutrality."
According to the interview, Canada donates $10 million to UNWRA a year. Israel has long accused UNRWA and its Gaza chief of bias in favor of the Palestinians.
Hansen's remarks add further fuel to accusations made by Israel based on footage released by the IDF showing terrorists placing a Kassam rocket inside a UN vehicle.
Earlier this week, the army released video footage taken by an unmanned aircraft flying over the Jabalya refugee camp which Israel says shows terrorists loading a Kassam rocket into a UN vehicle. Declaring that it would be impossible to fling a rocket single handedly into the vehicle, Hansen said he supported the ambulance driver who said the footage shows him placing a stretcher inside the ambulance. A security official told The Jerusalem Post that there are no doubts that a Kassam rocket was placed in the vehicle and said it was unfortunate that the comments made by Hansen didn't question the authenticity of the vehicle. "If there are any doubts they relate to the vehicle and whether it was indeed an authentic UN vehicle or whether the terrorists disguised a vehicle in order to evade being spotted by the army," the official said. The recent incident is only one of a number of claims made by Israel in the past four years suggesting that terrorists take advantage of the UNWRA facilities and vehicles knowing they will not be subject to security checks and permitted unrestricted movement. In April 2003, The Jerusalem Post obtained a document drawn up by the defense establishment claiming that terrorist organizations operating in Palestinian Authority controlled areas took advantage of UNWRA workers and their vehicles to transport terrorists and arms. At that time, Peter Hansen vehemently denied the claims; however, the document noted that Palestinian terrorists arrested by Israeli security forces admitted to using UNWRA equipment, facilities and vehicles.