Israel’s military accused the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on Monday of employing “over 450 terrorists” associated with groups such as Hamas.

“According to intelligence, over 450 terrorists belonging to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, mainly Hamas, are also employed by UNRWA,” an Israeli military statement said on Monday.

The allegation heightens Israel’s campaign against the agency, which is at the center of efforts to provide humanitarian relief in Gaza, where aid groups warn of looming famine after nearly five months of war between Israel and Hamas.

UNRWA employs around 30,000 people in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria—with about 13,000 staff in the Gaza Strip.

The military also released what it said were recordings of “a terrorist working as an Arabic teacher at an UNRWA school” who is “describing his entry into Israeli territory and stating that he is holding female Israeli hostages” during the October 7 attack by Hamas, which started the war.

AFP could not independently corroborate the claims made in the statement.

UNRWA has been at the center of controversy since Israel accused about a dozen of its employees of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Several countries—including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan—suspended funding to UNRWA following the Israeli allegations. But the European Commission, recognizing steps taken by the UN, said Friday it would release 50 million euros ($54 million) in UNRWA funding.

Phillipe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, has said that Israel provided no evidence against his former employees.

The United Nations fired the staff accused by Israel and has begun an internal probe.

Israel’s latest accusations against UNRWA came on the same day Lazzarini was set to defend his organization’s work at the UN General Assembly.

In a letter to the Assembly’s president, Lazzarini said the agency’s ability to carry out its mandate is “seriously threatened.” He urged member states to “provide the political support necessary to sustain it.”

Further escalating tensions, Israel’s foreign minister said on Monday that Israel had called its ambassador to the United Nations home for “immediate consultations” over what it said was a UN attempt to “silence” information of sexual violence by Hamas.

Israel has criticized the UN for not responding quickly enough to victims’ accounts of rape and sexual assault allegedly committed during Hamas’s incursion into Israel.

Khalil Wakim, with AFP