US pauses aid to UN agency after staffers accused of acting in Israel attack
Fox News’ Alex Hogan on the ongoing war in Israel and controversy surrounding the United Nations
The United States has temporarily paused “additional” funding for a key United Nations agency in the Gaza Strip over allegations that some of its members were “involved” in the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel.
“UNRWA can read the Beltway press well enough to know that Congress is moving to cut off U.S. funding,” Richard Goldberg, former National Security Council (NSC) advisor during the Trump Administration, told Fox News Digital.
“This is a PR move designed to preempt congressional action. It does nothing to change the fact that UNRWA is complicit in Hamas war crimes and remains a key obstacle to peace,” Goldberg, currently a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, added.
Twelve United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East employees were allegedly “involved” in the attack, and the U.S. funding will resume subject to an investigation from the United Nations.
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UNRWA, citing information provided by Israeli authorities, terminated the contract with the accused employees on Friday and announced an investigation “to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance” and “establish the truth without delay,” Reuters reported.
The U.S. State Department in a press release said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres regarding the investigation, which will be “comprehensive and independent.” The U.S. insisted that it must see “complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks of Oct. 7.”
Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) holds press conference in Jerusalem on October 27, 2023. (Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant praised the U.S. decision as “an important step in holding UNRWA accountable.”
“At least a dozen UNRWA employees participated in the horrific attack conducted on Oct. 7: These are ‘humanitarian workers,’ with salaries paid for by international donations, with blood on their hands,” Gallant said in a press release following the State Department’s announcement.
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“Major changes need to take place so that international efforts, funds, and humanitarian initiatives don’t fuel Hamas terrorism and the murder of Israelis,” Gallant wrote. “Terrorism under the guise of humanitarian work is a disgrace to the U.N. and the principles it claims to represent.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) during his official visit as part of Middle East Tour, in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 09, 2024. (Kobi Gideon (GPO) / Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)
The decision follows growing allegations that started in Dec. 2023 when an Israeli citizen taken hostage by Hamas said upon release that they had remained captive in the attic of a UNRWA teacher. Another hostage claimed that a Gazan doctor – allegedly a pediatrician – helped hold another hostage captive for Hamas.
UNRWA pushed back on the claim, calling it “unsubstantiated” after the Israeli journalist did not immediately respond to their requests for additional information, saying in an official statement, “UNRWA and other entities in the United Nations have asked the journalist to provide more information on what we consider to be a very serious allegation. Despite repeated demands, the journalist has not responded,” it was claimed.
The IDF claimed to have found documents, video footage, and photographs of Palestinian children used by Hamas Islamic Jihad as trained fighters. (IDF Spokesman’s Unit)
UNRWA has faced several allegations, including corruption and directly helping Hamas, as documented in an X community note. Reuters reported on a former headmaster at a UNRWA school who helped build rockets for Islamic Jihad while employed by the agency, as well as posts from several UNRWA teachers and administrators celebrating the Oct. 7 attack.
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The State Department under former President Trump cut ties with UNRWA in 2018, but President Biden resumed the relationship shortly after taking office. He continued to improve spending for the organization, with funds exceeding $1 billion.
GAZA CITY, GAZA – JANUARY 30: A man walks in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building as UNRWA personnel strike demanding a salary increase because of the high cost of living, in Gaza City, Gaza on January 30, 2023. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Blinken also visited UNRWA HQ in November following his visit to Jordan during a visit to the Middle East. During that visit he praised the organization’s humanitarian work in Gaza even as reports of UNRWA workers’ involvement in the Hamas attack swirled.
Thomas Hand of Israel stands on East 55th Street in Manhattan, Nov. 15, 2023. Behind him are posters of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas during its Oct. 7, 2023 terror attack. Hand’s daughter Emily, 8 at the time of the attack, has been missing since that day and believed held hostage in Gaza. (Sydney Borchers/Fox News Digital)
The House Foreign Affairs Committee announced around Christmas 2023 that it would launch its own investigation into UNRWA and the alleged ties to Hamas: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., insisted that there was “extensive evidence of a troubling connection between UNRWA and Hamas, and it is far deeper than was known.”
Goldberg compared the recent decision to that of the Biden administration’s approach to the Iran assets following the Hamas attack, with many pressuring the White House to refreeze assets for Tehran due to its direct ties to the terrorist group.
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“This looks a lot like the administration’s response to outcries over the $6 billion for Iran after Oct. 7,” Goldberg argued. “In the face of imminent legislation, the administration claimed it had frozen the money – but no law exists to enforce that temporary freeze.”
“Here, too, I fear the administration wants to get ahead of Congress prohibiting the aid in law, only to turn the spigot on once the supplemental has passed,” he said.
Fox News Digital’s Adam Sabes contributed to this report.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.