March 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

Some UNRWA Funding Resumes, Despite U.S. Ban

March 29, 2024 | Flash Brief

Some UNRWA Funding Resumes, Despite U.S. Ban

Latest Developments

France announced on March 28 that it has budgeted 30 million euros ($32.4 million) for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The United States and 15 other countries, including France, had previously suspended assistance to UNRWA following reports that some of its employees took part in Hamas’s October 7 massacre and that nearly half of its Gaza-based staff were connected to the terrorist group. While Washington continues to hold back aid, close U.S. allies have been reversing course. Australia announced on March 14 it would send $6 million to UNRWA. Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said on March 26 that Canada resumed funding to UNRWA at the request of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Expert Analysis

“With each passing day, more concerns emerge about the role UNRWA employees played, not only on October 7 but for years earlier, underscoring the myth that getting rid of a few bad apples in the organization would solve the problem. UNRWA allowed Hamas to build tunnels and a data center complete with an electrical room, industrial battery power banks, and living quarters under UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters. This is one example of the systemic problem with UNRWA. That’s one reason it’s imperative to create a bridge to alternative organizations to provide humanitarian aid for the Palestinians.” Toby Dershowitz, Managing Director of FDD Action

“It appears the Biden administration may be saying one thing about UNRWA in Washington and saying something completely different at Turtle Bay. We should be encouraging our allies to join us in moving away from UNRWA, not trying to keep this Hamas collaborator on life support.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Arab States Balk at Fully Funding UNRWA

The Wall Street Journal reported on March 26 that the Arab states that UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini lobbied for donations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar — rebuffed his efforts, giving his organization a total of only $85 million. Kuwait also pledged $2 million on March 28. These figures are significantly less than the $422 million that the United States, historically UNRWA’s largest donor, gave the organization last year.

U.S. Bans UNRWA Funding for One Year

Following Israel’s accusations that 12 UNRWA staff members joined the October 7 massacre, 15 donor countries cut a total of $440 million in funding to UNRWA. On January 26, the State Department temporarily paused UNRWA’s funding and alternatively sought to direct funding to the United Nations World Food Programme and UNICEF. On March 23, President Joe Biden signed into law a one-year ban on U.S. funding to UNRWA after the measure overwhelmingly passed in Congress. Instead, Congress earmarked $175 million for humanitarian efforts in Gaza and the West Bank that the U.S. Agency for International Development will distribute.

Terrorist Involvement in UNRWA

Israel now believes that at least 15 UNRWA employees had direct involvement on October 7, including educators and social workers. Some UNRWA employees are military operatives from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or other terrorist organizations. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that 2,135 UNRWA employees are active in terrorist organizations — 485 of them in active militant roles. It is also estimated that nearly half — approximately 49 percent of Gaza’s 13,000 UNRWA employees — had close relatives with ties to a Gazan terrorist group. Some even rose to become leaders in terrorist organizations. A former UNRWA official recently said during an interview that Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh was once an UNRWA teacher. 

U.S. Bans UNRWA Funding for One Year,” FDD Flash Brief

More Than 450 UNRWA Staff Are Terrorists, Israel Says,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Bypasses UNRWA in Palestinian Aid Funds,” FDD Flash Brief


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