The United States government announced on Friday that it would temporarily pause additional funding for UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians, as the organization launched an investigation into allegations from Israel that some of its staff members had participated in a deadly attack on October 7th. According to Israeli officials, Hamas militants, classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S., and the European Union, killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped about 240 others in the attack.
The allegations against UNRWA staff members have sparked outrage and condemnation from both the U.S. and the U.N. On Friday, Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, announced that the agency had terminated the contracts of the employees accused of involvement in the attack and launched an immediate investigation to establish the truth. Lazzarini did not specify the number of employees accused but stated that anyone found to have participated in acts of terror would be held accountable and could face criminal prosecution.
The U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, previously briefed on the allegations by Lazzarini, released a statement expressing his shock and horror at the news. He has urged for the full termination of the implicated staff members and referral for criminal prosecution. Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Guterres, also posted on social media that the U.N. chief was extremely troubled by the allegations and had requested Lazzarini to swiftly investigate the matter.
Once again the Biden Administration has to concede that Trump was right all along. Trump endured breathless criticism for ending funding to UNRWA, a corrupt, anti-Israel organization with long-time ties to Hamas. https://t.co/YMVRS9Fo4e
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) January 26, 2024
The U.S. Department of State spokesperson, Matthew Miller, stated that the U.S. was "extremely troubled" by the allegations and had reached out to the Israeli government for clarification. He also mentioned that Congress had been briefed on the matter. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Guterres on Thursday and emphasized the need for complete accountability for any UNRWA employee found to have participated in the attack.
The U.S. is the largest funder of UNRWA, and the decision to temporarily halt funding has caused concerns among the international community. However, the U.S. remains committed to supporting the agency and has asked Congress for an additional aid package for Israel and the Palestinians. The suspension of funding is a temporary measure while the U.S. reviews the allegations and the steps being taken by the U.N. to address them.
This is not the first time that U.S. funding for UNRWA has been put on hold. In 2018, former President Trump also paused aid to the agency, which had been accused by Israel of turning a blind eye to Hamas activities in Gaza. The decision to resume funding under President Biden was seen as an effort to rebuild U.S.-Palestinian relations, which had deteriorated under the previous administration.
The U.S. announcement has also drawn attention to the larger issue of aid to the Palestinians. The Biden administration has been advocating for a two-state solution and has requested an additional $350 million in economic assistance for the Palestinians in its budget proposal. However, this move to temporarily halt funding for UNRWA may impact this aid and the larger peace efforts in the region.
As the investigation by UNRWA continues, the world is watching to see what steps will be taken to hold those responsible for the attack accountable. The agency has a responsibility to ensure that its employees uphold the highest standards of conduct and do not engage in any activities that could jeopardize its humanitarian work.
The U.S. government has made it clear that it will not tolerate any involvement in terrorist activities and is committed to working with the U.N. to address these allegations and prevent such incidents in the future.