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UN teacher accused of holding Hamas hostage in attic; UNRWA calls claim 'unsubstantiated'

Demonstrators gather to call for the release of hostages in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2023. Demonstrators plan on gathering in front of the Red Cross every Sunday until all Israeli and foreign hostages, including Americans, are released by Hamas which too civilians captive and into Gaza on October 7, 2023, during orchestrated attacks on Israel.
Demonstrators gather to call for the release of hostages in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2023. Demonstrators plan on gathering in front of the Red Cross every Sunday until all Israeli and foreign hostages, including Americans, are released by Hamas which too civilians captive and into Gaza on October 7, 2023, during orchestrated attacks on Israel. | STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

A teacher with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has been accused of keeping a Hamas hostage captive in an attic for over a month, claims that the UN agency has deemed "unsubstantiated."

According to a report shared on social media last week by Israeli Channel 13's Almog Boker, the UNRWA teacher, who is also a father of 10, allegedly held a man hostage and barely provided the abductee with enough to eat, and also neglected his medical needs. 

The report came amid a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas in which Hamas released some of the civilians it had taken captive on Oct. 7 in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. 

Over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed during Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Southern Israel, and about 240 people were abducted. Boker alleges that another hostage victim was held by a Gazan doctor who also cared for children. 

“These are not isolated incidents; these civilians are terrorists,” he wrote. “Present at the Saturday massacre; they're now revealed as integral to holding hundreds captive, including women and children.”

The Christian Post reached out to UNRWA for a response, with a spokesperson directing CP to a statement posted to its website on Friday saying that UNRWA and the UN have requested more information from the Israeli journalist who shared the report. 

"Despite repeated demands, the journalist has not responded," UNRWA said, requesting the reporter provide immediate clarification of his claims to help the agency determine the facts. 

"In the absence of credible information to support this claim, UNRWA requests that the journalist immediately deletes the post," the agency continued. "Making serious allegations in the public domain, unsupported by any evidence or verifiable facts in support thereof may amount to misinformation." 

The agency emphasized that it takes such accusations seriously and investigates them. 

"We are hence determined to find out whether the information in question is genuine or false," the statement reads.

UNRWA also responded on X, formerly known as Twitter, stating, "Spreading unsubstantiated claims about @UNRWA must stop immediately." Under the tweet, Twitter shared several links to prior news articles, saying that "claims against UNRWA have been documented for a long time."

One piece linked under the UNRWA tweet is a 2008 Reuters article on a former headmaster and science teacher at a UN school in Gaza whom Palestinian militants also celebrated as someone who made rockets for Islamic Jihad. 

As the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education reported earlier this month, 13 UNRWA staffers, seven of them teachers, made social media posts celebrating Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel.

According to the institute’s findings, the textbooks in UNRWA schools also contain antisemitic content. 

UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma labeled the accusation about antisemitic textbooks "unsubstantiated" in a statement last month to The Washington Free Beacon

"UNRWA rejects claims linking its schools to the abhorrent 7 October attacks in Israel–attacks that UNRWA has condemned in the strongest terms," Touma said. "As in the past, these allegations are yet another attempt to sensationalize and extrapolate, based on flawed methodology and flimsy evidence."

Last Friday, the Israel Defense Forces resumed combat operations in Gaza after accusing Hamas of breaking the ceasefire agreement by firing at Israeli territory. 

Following the release of multiple hostages during the temporary truce, more details have emerged regarding their treatment while in captivity. 

According to a report by KXAN, central Texas resident Dori Roberts expressed relief over the release of his cousin and two daughters. The trio was held captive by Hamas for almost two months. 

“We found out that they spent about maybe an hour of daylight if they could, but that’s all they gave them,” Roberts said. “They were eating chickpeas out of like, you know, canned food pretty much. Dry bread and water.”

As a result of the time the group spent as hostages, Roberts said the trio is lacking in nutrition, and the kids will have to cope with trauma.

While the man’s cousin and two daughters are now free, two of his relatives are still being held hostage by Hamas. One of his family members, an aunt, was killed while in captivity. 

“We’re not sure exactly what happened, but my aunt was murdered there, and her body was left by the border,” Roberts said.

Deborah Cohen, the aunt of Eitan Yahalomi, another freed hostage, told the French media outlet BFM Tuesday that Hamas forced her 12-year-old nephew to watch footage of the group slaughtering civilians on Oct. 7. She also said that Hamas would force its child captives to be quiet by threatening them with rifles when they cried. 

“I wanted to hope that he was treated well, but it turns out he wasn’t; they’re monsters,” she said. “Now that I know this, I’m worried. His father is still there, and there are 160 people who have not yet returned.”

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: samantha.kamman@christianpost.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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