The Israeli government has taken a bold step in response to the ongoing scandal involving UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian Refugees. This Monday, the government ordered the expropriation of land occupied by UNRWA offices in East Jerusalem, and also banned entry into its territory of special rapporteur Francesca Albanese.
The decision was made by Yitzhak Goldknopf, the Israeli housing minister, who directed Yaakov Quint, director general of Israel Lands Authority (ILA), to expropriate land occupied by UNRWA offices in East Jerusalem. The move will affect the offices of UNRWA in Maalot Dafna and Kafr Aqab, both located in East Jerusalem informally annexed by Israel since 1967 and which falls under Palestinian territories under international law.
Goldknopf justified his decision by stating that UNRWA had “acted in service” of Hamas, an Islamist movement and terrorist group that governs Gaza Strip. He added that he wanted to put an end to this and kick them out of Israel.
Israeli authorities have been critical of UNRWA after it was discovered that some of its employees were investigated for collaborating with Hamas in attacks launched against Israeli territory earlier this month. This led to escalation and suspicion about the agency’s role in Israel’s view.
Francesca Albanese, an independent presumption expert appointed by the United Nations, criticized statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron describing Hamas’ assault on Israel as “the largest anti-Semitic massacre of our century.” Her comments were deemed “scandalous” by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel, who announced that she was prohibited from entering the State of Israel.
Albanese responded on social media shortly after with a tweet stating that Israel’s ban is not new as they have banned all special rapporteurs on Palestinian territories since 2008. However, he reiterated his criticism towards Israel’s actions in Gaza and emphasized that they are reaching a new level.