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Israeli protesters call U.N. relief agency 'Hamas,' demand its expulsion from Jerusalem

By Mike Heuer
Pro-Israel activists urge the removal of the UNRWA from Jerusalem during protests Wednesday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
1 of 5 | Pro-Israel activists urge the removal of the UNRWA from Jerusalem during protests Wednesday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

March 20 (UPI) -- Hundreds of pro-Israel protesters in Jerusalem gathered outside of United Nations Relief and Works Agency offices to demand its removal from the city and the return of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

The protesters are members of the Tzav 9 movement that demands the release of hostages captured by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 attack on Israeli citizens, the Jerusalem Post and i24 News reported.

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Tzav 9 members demand an end to all aid to Palestinians in Gaza until all the hostages are returned to Israel.

During the protest, demonstrators said the "UNRWA is Hamas."

"UNRWA knows where the hostages are and refuses to say. We came here to disrupt the organization's activities and demand: Bring the hostages home," Tzav 9 said in a statement quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

The U.N. group UNRWA has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1949 and provides them with food and medicine, education, healthcare, and social services. It also provides refugees with financial and emergency assistance and has done so since the end of the first Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East in 1948.

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During Wednesday's protest, the participants blocked the doorways leading the UNRWA offices in Jerusalem. They placed a sign at the UNRWA office entrance that read, "blood on your hands" in red letters.

While addressing the protesters, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King likened the United Nations organization to Nazis and made unsubstantiated claims about it being responsible for vicious crimes including murder and rape, i24 News reported.

The protesters also challenged the United Nation's continued financial support of UNRWA, saying they, too, are refugees of the wars in the 1940s through the 1960s but don't get U.N. funding.

In January, Israel issued a report accusing a dozen UNRWA workers of being Hamas militants who participated in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed more than 1,000 civilians and kidnapped more than 200. About 100 remain hostages of Hamas.

The January report by Israel prompted the United States and at least 15 other nations to suspend their funding of the UNRWA.

The European Union also briefly suspended its funding of UNRWA but on March 1 announced it would resume funding after casting doubt on the allegations that some of its workers are Hamas militants.

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