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House Republicans to Investigate Biden Administration’s Decision to Renew UNRWA Funding in 2021

The probe is in response to reports that 12 UNRWA staff members participated in the Hamas-led terror attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.

House Republicans are launching a probe into the Biden administration’s previous funding to the U.N. Agency in Gaza over allegations that its staffers were involved in the Hamas-led terror attack on Israel last year.

In a Feb. 16 letter to State Secretary Antony Blinken, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee requested documents and information related to the Biden administration’s 2021 decision to renew funding for the United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The letter cites a report suggesting that at least 12 UNRWA staff members participated in Hamas’s unprecedented terrorist attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, and in its aftermath.

“The deeply concerning allegations surrounding UNRWA staff include participation in the kidnapping of Israelis and foreign nationals visiting or residing in Israel, procuring weapons or coordinating logistics for Hamas, and participating in the murder of civilians at a kibbutz,” the lawmakers stated.

At least 12 nations, including the United States, have suspended their funding to UNRWA. However, Republican lawmakers said the reports warrant further scrutiny of the Biden administration’s 2021 decision.

“But the Administration had originally restored UNRWA’s funding in 2021 even amidst mounting evidence that UNRWA has close ties to terror groups,” said the committee, chaired by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.).

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“The latest revelations of UNRWA’s ties to terror groups warrant greater scrutiny of the Biden Administration’s decision in April 2021 to partner with the agency,” they added.

In 2018, the Trump administration suspended funding for the agency after assessing its operations were  “irredeemably flawed.” The funding was resumed after President Joe Biden took office in 2021.

The letter states that suspicions about UNRWA staff’s ties to Hamas and other terror groups have lingered for years, citing the 2017 firing of the head of UNRWA’s union over his role in Hamas’s leadership.

Israeli intelligence estimates that nearly half of all UNRWA staff members have close relatives with ties to militant groups, and about 10 percent of UNRWA staff members have ties to Hamas, according to the letter.

“Hundreds of examples of the agency’s staff participating in racist, violent, and extremist dialogue have been found since 2015,” the Republican lawmakers stated.

“All of these allegations, many of which predate the October 7, 2023, terrorist attacks, call into question whether the Biden administration adequately reviewed its decision to renew funding to UNRWA,” they added.

UNRWA Potentially Runs Out of Resources

Displaced Palestinian people sit on benches as they wait outside a clinic of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 28, 2024. (AFP via Getty Images)
Displaced Palestinian people sit on benches as they wait outside a clinic of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 28, 2024. (AFP via Getty Images)

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said on Jan. 26 that he would terminate the contracts of some staff and launch a probe to determine the truth.

Mr. Lazzarini said that “any UNRWA employee who was involved in acts of terror” would be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.

The agency has warned that it may run out of resources by the end of February unless donors restore funding.

“A freeze in contributions from the agency’s largest donors places its operations at grave risk. UNRWA projects that approximately $440 million of near-term funding hangs in the balance, and the deficit could snowball if this crisis cannot be resolved,” it stated on Feb. 8.

“Humanitarian agency employees are both privately and publicly expressing great alarm about what this news could mean for the welfare of the millions of Palestinians who depend on UNRWA’s support.”

On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas-led terrorists carried out surprise attacks on Israel, slaughtering some 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping more than 240 hostages. The death toll in Gaza has since reached more than 28,000, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry.

UNRWA has 13,000 staff in Gaza, almost all of them Palestinians, ranging from teachers in schools that the agency runs, to doctors, medical staff, and aid workers.

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