Israel has rebuffed a United Nations demand for the immediate release of a UN employee that Israel arrested on allegations of using his position to divert aid cash to Hamas, Israeli news outlets reported.
The UN’s Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) sent a letter to Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, requesting the release of Waheed Al-Bursh, a UNDP worker who was arrested in July for allegedly assisting the Hamas resistance group, saying he should receive diplomatic immunity.
“Israel operates according to the law, and we continue to do so in this case as well,” claimed Danon in response to the letter. “We do not grant immunity to terrorists trying to harm our citizens.” The UN said that any employee of the organization should receive the privilege of diplomatic immunity by local authorities and that until Al-Bursh’s release from prison he should be granted visits by the organization. “The UN and other organizations must implement a comprehensive reform of the humanitarian aid mechanism in Gaza,” Danon further alleged. “Any dollar spent, and any local hired by an international organization, must be monitored.” Over recent years, Israel’s ambassador Danon has exerted pressure on international aid organizations operating in the blockaded Gaza Strip regarding implementing pro-Israel mechanisms for recruiting new workers, and to prevent funds envisioned for humanitarian use from reaching the enclave.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said, “Israel rejects the claim that a person assisting a terror organization recognized by the international community such as Hamas could enjoy immunity.”
Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency said that Borsh used UNDP resources last year to build a marina for Hamas’ naval forces. In addition, the Shin Bet alleged that at Hamas’ request, he persuaded his managers to prioritize the reconstruction of houses damaged in conflicts with Israel in areas where Hamas members lived.
UNDP said in a statement on Aug. 9 that it was “greatly concerned” by the allegations, that it was investigating them, and that it has “zero tolerance for wrongdoing” in its programs and projects.
Nachshon said the UN suddenly claimed in a letter Wednesday that Borsh is entitled to diplomatic immunity. The claim was examined by jurists who determined it is “unsubstantiated,” he said.