February 28, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Bypasses UNRWA in Palestinian Aid Funds

February 28, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Bypasses UNRWA in Palestinian Aid Funds

Latest Developments

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will not receive any aid as part of $53 million in new humanitarian assistance for Gaza that Washington announced on February 27. Instead, the United States plans to distribute the aid through the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and non-governmental organizations. WFP is a U.S.-led UN body that delivers food assistance in emergencies.

WFP is directed by Ambassador Cindy McCain, wife of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, and overseen by 36 UN member states. The State Department paused funding for UNRWA on January 26 after reports that 12 UNRWA employees in Gaza participated in the October 7 attack on Israel. More than a dozen other countries also cut funding to the organization. U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East David Satterfield said on February 16 that “Congress has made clear … that U.S. funding for UNRWA will stop. It’s not a suspension. It is a prohibition on providing further funding.”

Expert Analysis

“There is no coming back from October 7 for UNRWA. The UN secretary-general needs to come to terms with this reality and execute a transition to the many available alternative vehicles for aid delivery.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“UNRWA’s involvement with terrorist activities justifies Israel’s decision to prohibit its operations in the Gaza Strip. It is contradictory for an organization to provide humanitarian aid while also facilitating acts of terrorism through its staff and compounds.” Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Israel Plans No UNRWA in Post-War Gaza

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu included the shutdown of UNRWA in his plan for the Gaza Strip after Hamas’s defeat. Noting that many UNRWA operatives were involved in Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and that the organization’s schools “taught terrorism and the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu’s plan stated that Israel would work to end UNRWA’s activities and replace it with “responsible international aid agencies.”

Israel believes that 12 percent of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in Gaza are affiliated with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On January 26, UNRWA terminated the contracts of 12 staff members who allegedly participated in Hamas’s October 7 massacre. UNRWA again came under fire when Israeli forces on February 12 uncovered a Hamas data center and intelligence hub housed underneath UNRWA’s Gaza City headquarters.

Israel Identifies Ways to Circumvent UNRWA

Israel has already found ways to sidestep UNRWA as it facilitates the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. On February 23, Israel worked with WFP to deliver a large shipment of flour from the United States, enough to feed 1.5 million Gazans for five months.

UNRWA Exposed: Examining the Agency’s Mission and Failures,” by Richard Goldberg

10 Things to Know About the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),” FDD Insight

Israel Sidesteps UNRWA to Deliver Gaza Aid Via WFP,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel: Find UNRWA Successor Now,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Funding to UNRWA Still Flowing,” FDD Flash Brief


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