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Israel Forces Out UN Official in Palestinian Territories

FILE — Lynn Hastings speaks at the United Nations compound in Gaza City, May 23, 2021. Israel has told the UN it will not renew the visa of Hastings, who is the UN's resident and humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories.
FILE — Lynn Hastings speaks at the United Nations compound in Gaza City, May 23, 2021. Israel has told the UN it will not renew the visa of Hastings, who is the UN's resident and humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories.

Israel has told the United Nations that it will not renew the visa of its resident and humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories, effectively kicking her out. It comes amid strained relations between Israel and the world body over the war in Gaza.

In a letter dated November 12 and seen by VOA, Amir Weissbrod, the deputy director general of Israel's foreign ministry office that deals with the United Nations and international organizations, expressed his government's displeasure with the U.N. official, Lynn Hastings.

"We regret to inform you that Ms. Hastings has lost the trust and confidence of Israeli authorities and is no longer in a position to fulfill her responsibilities effectively with the relevant Israeli officials," he wrote. He said Israel would not renew her visa when it expires on December 20.

Weissbrod cited what he called her "ongoing silence" regarding Hamas' responsibility for the October 7 terror attacks on Israel.

"This silence has been all the more stunning, and profoundly offensive, given Ms. Hastings's willingness to regularly and irresponsibly direct criticism at Israel," he said.

Three days after the attack, Hastings put out a statement that said, "Palestinian armed groups infiltrated Israel on 7 October, killing and capturing hundreds of Israeli civilians and members of the Israeli forces while indiscriminately firing thousands of rockets into Israel."

The statement added: "Captured civilians must be released immediately and unconditionally" and "treated humanely and with dignity."

Called for more aid to Gaza

Hastings has been vocal in repeatedly calling for scaled-up aid to Gaza. From October 7 to 21, Israel would not allow any humanitarian assistance into the Hamas-controlled territory. Once it did start, it was limited and inadequate to meet growing needs. She also urged Israel to reverse its evacuation order that sent more than 1 million people from northern Gaza fleeing south.

Hastings has called on both parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

"I can only — and I've said this before — reiterate the secretary-general's full confidence in Ms. Hastings, the way she has conducted herself and the way she has done her work," U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday in response to reporters' questions and confirming Israel's decision.

He noted that Hastings has faced public attacks, including on social media.

"Personal, direct attacks on U.N. personnel anywhere around the world is unacceptable and puts people's lives at risk," Dujarric said.

Israel's decision comes amid strained relations between Tel Aviv and the United Nations. Israeli officials have for years accused the organization of bias against Israel, and last month, Ambassador Gilad Erdan called for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to resign when he said Hamas' attack "did not happen in a vacuum."

Palestinians "have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation," Guterres added.

Erdan said that day that Israel would also have to reassess its relations with the United Nations.

Allegation against UNRWA teacher

Separately, the U.N. agency that assists Palestinians, UNRWA, said Friday that it has asked an Israeli journalist for more information on what it said is a "very serious allegation" that an UNRWA teacher held one of the Israelis abducted on October 7 in his attic for 50 days.

Israel television channel 13 reporter Almog Boker wrote on social media platform X Thursday that the alleged kidnapper had barely provided the hostage with food or medical attention.

"UNRWA requests the journalist to provide an immediate clarification of the claims and whoever may be able to assist us in determining the facts, to come forward," the agency said in a statement. "In the absence of credible information to support this claim, UNRWA requests the journalist to immediately delete the post."

Boker's post was picked up by several media outlets and had more than 2,000 repostings on X.

"Making serious allegations in the public domain, unsupported by any evidence or verifiable facts in support may thereof amount to misinformation," UNRWA said.