In the current Israeli invasion of Gaza there have been a series of reports of attacks on facilities operated by the UNRWA such as schools and hospitals. Israel has claimed that they were being used to harbor weapons used by Hamas. Yesterday the US Dept. of State took the very unusual step of condemning the latest such attack.
The State Department issued a statement Sunday condemning Israel's "disgraceful" shelling of a United Nations school sheltering civilians in Gaza, saying that the United States is "appalled" by the attack which left 10 people dead.The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East came into existence with the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 which displaced a large number of Palestinian refugees. The linked wiki article details the long contentious history of its activities and relations with Israel. Most of the funding for the agency comes from the US and Europe. Israeli supporters in the US congress have pushed investigations of its role in supporting terrorists.
"The United States is appalled by today's disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed," reads the statement from State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. "We once again stress that Israel do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties."
Psaki continues: "UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians."
There is all sorts of history that can be dug through about those charges and counter charges. One perennial issue is their mandate for on going operations. The original purpose was relief and support for about 350K people who were displaced refugees in 1948. Their present activities encompass services to the descendants of those people who now total about 5M people. Various Israeli supporters and officials have repeatedly expressed the opinion that the activities of the agency should be sharply curtailed or even terminated.
In light of this history and Israeli claims of support for Hamas, the attacks on UNRWA facilities appear to be a bit more complicated than just "collateral damage".