House lawmakers question why U.S. hasn’t sanctioned fired UNRWA employees

‘We write with great concern that the United States has yet to take action against the twelve employees recently terminated’ by UNRWA, the 51 House members said


The UNRWA logo is seen on the vest of an employee during a visit to the Jabal El Hussein refugee camp of UNRWA, , part of a diplomatic mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories, in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday 15 May 2024.

Fifty-one House lawmakers raised concerns on Thursday about the U.S.’ lack of action to sanction the 12 employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency fired for their participation in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.

“We write with great concern that the United States has yet to take action against the twelve employees recently terminated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for their actions related to the October 7 terrorist attacks,” the lawmakers said in a letter to the secretaries of State and Treasury. “We ask that both of your agencies designate as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), and impose sanctions and other penalties on these twelve employees, and all additional UNRWA employees, who took part in the October 7 terrorist attacks.”

The letter notes that by providing material support to Hamas, a designated terrorist group, the individuals meet the criteria for U.S. sanctions, and that evidence “strongly suggests” that they meet the bar for being designated as SDGTs.

The lawmakers requested that the administration, within 30 days, confirm that the individuals in question meet the criteria for designation and sanctions, and provide a strategy to “ensure U.S. funds do not support terrorism.”

The lawmakers asked the Cabinet secretaries to provide details on measures they plan to take to ensure greater oversight over all funding for international organizations and to create a mechanism to automatically cut off funding when organizations are found to have employees affiliated with terrorist groups.

“While we agree that any individual found to have participated in the attacks should be terminated from their employment with UNRWA, the accusations and evidence in the public domain require a stronger response, including the designation of individuals for materially supporting terrorism,” the letter reads. “We cannot allow these terrorists who masquerade as UNRWA humanitarian aid workers to go unpunished.”

The letter was led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and French Hill (R-AR), with support from both sides of the aisle.

FDD Action, the advocacy arm of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is supporting the letter.

“These individuals should be designated under U.S. legal authorities,” FDD Action said in a statement. “This would send a clear message not only to the individuals in question but to the organizations to which they belong that are recipients of U.S. taxpayer dollars that there are consequences for violating our laws.”

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