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House committee calls UNRWA chief to testify on alleged Hamas aid theft

‘We must be clear-eyed about the reality that diversion by Hamas is a real threat and one that is very likely happening with UNRWA aid,’ House Foreign Affairs Committee lawmakers wrote

Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images

Aid trucks carrying medicine and humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza enter through the Karm Abu Salem commercial crossing as part of the agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza City, Gaza on January 17, 2024.

House Foreign Affairs Committee leaders called on the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to testify before the committee about concerns that U.S.-funded aid flowing into Gaza is being diverted by Hamas.

Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) wrote to UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini, on Wednesday raising concerns about reports that Hamas has stolen food and other supplies during the recent war.

“There have been a number of concerning reports that have called into question the very mission and effectiveness of UNRWA,” the lawmakers wrote. “We must be clear-eyed about the reality that diversion by Hamas is a real threat and one that is very likely happening with UNRWA aid… Our constituents are horrified that their taxpayer dollars may have, through UNRWA failures, supported Hamas terrorists.’

The lawmakers highlighted that there is a documented history of Hamas stealing U.S. aid, and said that the U.N. agency has a track record of failing to remain neutral in its work in Gaza.

They specifically highlighted Hamas tunnels found in and around UNRWA schools and reports that an Israeli hostage was held in an UNRWA teacher’s home, as well as numerous instances of UNRWA employees sharing antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric.

“Assessments by NGOs continue to reveal anti-Israel content in educational materials used in UNRWA schools, which increases our concern that UNRWA, through this curriculum, has in some way aided Hamas’ call to destroy Israel,” the letter continues.

The House members asked the UNRWA leader to respond to their request by next Wednesday.

An HFAC subcommittee held a hearing with outside experts on potential reforms to the U.N. agency in November, following long-running efforts from lawmakers to reform or defund the U.N. agency. House Republicans are seeking to cut UNRWA funding entirely in 2024.

“Make no mistake, antisemitic bigotry is at the root of the UN’s hostility to Israel, which is ugly, evil, and manifests itself in almost every UN entity, especially and including UNRWA,” Smith, who chaired the November hearing, said in a statement.

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