When a senior U.S. diplomat called the Israeli military last week to request further details about Israeli allegations against a United Nations agency in Gaza, military leaders were so surprised that they ordered an internal inquiry about how the information had reached the ears of foreign officials.
The allegations were grave: 12 employees of the organization, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, were accused of joining Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel or its aftermath.
The claims reinforced Israel’s decades-old narrative about UNRWA: that it is biased against Israel and influenced by Hamas and other armed groups, charges that the agency strongly rejects.
But while most Israeli officials oppose UNRWA, some military leaders did not want to see it shuttered amid a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. In fact, it was not the military that disclosed the information to the United States but UNRWA itself.
The sequence of events began on Jan. 18, when Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, met with a top Israeli diplomat in Tel Aviv. Mr. Lazzarini meets roughly once a month in Israel with the diplomat, Amir Weissbrod, a deputy director general at the Israeli Foreign Ministry who oversees relationships with U.N. agencies. This was meant to be a routine discussion about the delivery of food, fuel and other aid supplies to Gaza, according to a U.N. official briefed on the meeting.
Instead, Mr. Weissbrod came supplied with the shocking intelligence about UNRWA, which had been given to him by officers in the military, according to four officials familiar with the situation.