Photo Credit: Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been ordered to vacate its Jerusalem offices within 30 days over violations of its lease.

In a letter to UNRWA, the Israel Lands Authority said the agency owed NIS 27.1 million ($7.3 million) for maintaining offices on Israeli state land without permission over the last seven years.


The letter demanded that UNRWA “immediately stop any illegal use, destroy everything you have built in violation of the law, vacate the land of any people or items and return it to the [ILA] within 30 days from the date of this letter.”

The letter was authorized by Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf and the ministry’s legal advisors.

Not the First Violation
This is not the first time the UN agency has been ordered to pay outstanding fees and evacuate illegally-built facilities.

Israel Lands Authority Demands UNRWA Vacate Illegally Occupied Plot in Jerusalem Area

On January 14, 2024, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) sent a letter to UNRWA demanding the agency vacate a compound built on a 21-acre plot of land near the Qalandiya checkpoint. The ILA said the agency lacked a permit to use the state-owned site, is located in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Kfar Aqab.

“You are hereby required to immediately cease all unlawful use, demolish everything you have built illegally, evacuate the land of all persons and/or objects and restore the situation to its previous state, within 30 days of the date of this letter,” the letter says.

The letter, sent by the ILA’s legal counsel for the Jerusalem District, also demanded a retroactive payment of NIS 17 million ($4.6 million) in usage fees.

ILA Ignored Violations
According to Hebrew media reports, the ILA had turned a blind eye to UNRWA’s breaches of the lease till now.

“It’s not surprising that they are allowing themselves not to accept, not respect Israeli law here in Jerusalem,” Deputy Mayor Arieh King told TPS in February. “They’re building illegal buildings, they have petrol stations in places they’re not allowed to have, and it’s time that the Israeli government will allow us, the municipality of Jerusalem, to pass a law against UNRWA.”

But Israeli views of UNRWA have hardened since the invasion of Israel and slaughter of some 1,200 people by Hamas terrorist on October 7, 2023.

UNRWA Ties to Terror
Since that time, the agency’s close ties to the Hamas terrorist organization have been exposed; UNRWA staffers participated in the October 7 massacre.

Israeli forces have discovered a Hamas complex located directly under the UNRWA’s Gaza City headquarters. Computer servers belonging to Hamas were directly connected to UNRWA’s electricity system. Soldiers have also found weapons stored inside UNRWA facilities on multiple occasions.

Hamas terror tunnels, tunnel shafts, military command centers, dungeons, weaponry and more have been discovered beneath nearly all the UNRWA facilities in Gaza, in fact.

UNRWA Bank Account Frozen, Terror Activity Suspected
Israel’s largest bank froze UNRWA’s account in February over suspicious financial transfers that the agency failed to adequately explain.

UNRWA Account Blocked by Bank Leumi

In the letter sent to the UN agency, the bank noted numerous funds transfers that were carried out in such a manner that did not not allow the bank to trace their source and final destination without sufficient explanation, further raising concerns that the account might be used to funnel funds to terrorist elements.

‘UNRWA Law” Passes First Reading in Knesset
Israeli lawmakers are demanding that the agency be stripped of its authority in Gaza and defunded.

‘UNRWA Law’ to Designate Agency as Terror Organization, Passes First Knesset Reading

On Wednesday, the Knesset approved a preliminary reading of legislation designating UNRWA as terror organization. The legislation authorizes the Foreign Ministry to make the final determination on the terror designation. UNRWA would then be stripped of its diplomatic immunity, tax-exempt status, and other legal benefits.

Calls to Close UNRW
Jerusalem’s deputy mayor also accused UNRWA of undermining Israeli sovereignty over the city, among other issues.

Reports released by IMPACT-SE and UN Watch documented UNRWA employees expressing support for the October 7 attacks on social media.

The UN probed Israeli accusations against 19 UNRWA staffers. But to Israel’s ire, the investigations were dropped as UN officials claimed the evidence presented was insufficient. As a result, Israel is bypassing UNRWA in distributing humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority refugees are the only refugee population with its own dedicated UN agency. The rest of the world’s refugees fall under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Israeli officials have called for UNRWA to be closed and for Palestinian Authority refugees to be brought under the responsibility of the UNHCR.

At least 1,200 people were killed, and 252 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the 125 remaining hostages, at least 39 have been confirmed deceased.

Hana Levi Julian contributed to this report.

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