Israel Rejects UN Call to Free Palestinian Aid Worker Accused of Funneling Cash to Hamas

Foreign Ministry says Israel was surprised by UN's claim that Wahid Bursh is entitled to diplomatic immunity, calling it 'baseless.'

Palestinians receiving aid in Gaza, on bottom-right Wahid Bursh.
Reuters / Shin Bet

Israel rejected Thursday the UN's call to free a Palestinian aid worker accused by Israel of siphoning development funds intended for Gaza to Hamas.

Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Eyal Nachshon said "Israel rejects the UN's claim that a person who abets an internationally recognized terrorist organization like Hamas will enjoy immunity for the simple reason that whoever abets terror does so while hiding their behind immunity."   

Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon said Israel rejected the UN's request because "We shall not grant immunity to terrorists working to hurt Israeli citizens." In statement, he said that "Israel abides by the law and that's how we're handing this case as well."

Danon's statement said the UN claimed all of its employees are supposed to enjoy diplomatic immunity, and on this basis demanded the release of Wahid Bursh – an employee of the UN Development Program that Israel accuses of diverting funds earmarked for aid and development to Hamas' military needs.

According to Nachshon, the UNDP had until Wednesday been supportive of Israel's investigation and the demand caught Israel by surprise. He said Israeli legal officials were looking into the claim Bursh was entitled to immunity and said that at face value the claim was baseless.

Nachshon said that in the two weeks following Bursh's arrest, the UN claimed he was only an external contractor and only now claim he's entitled to the immunity of a UN worker. He further said that this type of diplomatic immunity is only extended to workers in relation to their field work and obviously does not cover acts of terror. "It is inconceivable that someone abetting terror while enjoy UN immunity."