US relying on Hamas-linked UN Agency for Gaza aid

‘The Biden administration involving UNRWA in any part of their half-baked Gaza pier scheme would be illegal,’ said Sen. Tom Cotton.

By Adam Kredo, The Washington Free Beacon

The Biden administration says it is channeling aid for a pier system built off the coast of the Gaza Strip through the entirety of the United Nations’ humanitarian infrastructure, comments that come after a top U.S. official confirmed the United States is still relying on the Hamas-linked Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for aid distribution.

But officials from across the administration will not detail the extent of UNRWA’s involvement in their ongoing humanitarian efforts.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is leading U.S. aid operations, said last week that “the entire U.N. family should and will be able to benefit from the distribution networks” established through America’s aid pier. It is definitely a U.N.-wide participation,” Daniel Dieckhaus, USAID’s response director, told reporters during a Wednesday briefing.

Samantha Power, USAID’s top official, said on Friday the pier is part of a joint aid operation led by the United States, Arab nations, the U.N., and international donors.

Power, during an April 10 briefing before Congress, said, “UNRWA infrastructure is still being relied upon, including by USAID’s partners” to deliver aid into the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA, Power said at the time, is “at the heart of the response” to the humanitarian situation, and is being used by the U.S. government even after Congress froze American funding to the organization as a result of its ties to Hamas and participation by some of its employees in the terror group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

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As the pier becomes active and aid begins to be distributed, Biden administration officials from USAID, the State Department, and the Defense Department will not disclose the extent of UNRWA’s involvement in their effort to pump humanitarian goods into the Hamas-controlled territory.

America’s ties to UNRWA are driving opposition on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), telling the Washington Free Beacon that the Biden administration is trying to circumvent congressional prohibitions on U.S. support for the aid group.

“The Biden administration is using the Gaza Pier to do an end-run around Congress and funnel resources through UNRWA, which means they’re funneling resources to Hamas,” Cruz said.

“It’s another disgraceful example of just how far they are willing to go as part of their pathological obsession with undermining Israel.”

The Pentagon was asked on Thursday about the United States’ reliance on UNRWA, but would not provide reporters with a clear answer.

“I’m not going to get into sort of specific partners on who we’re working with but the corridor is in support for the entire humanitarian effort and the U.N. family,” Sonali Korde, assistant to the administrator of USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, said in response to questions about the Defense Department’s aid operation.

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A Pentagon spokesman told the Free Beacon that it is not “coordinating with UNRWA on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza,” but would not answer specific questions about whether this aid is ultimately funneled through UNRWA’s infrastructure once it arrives in Gaza.

A USAID spokesman confirmed that “multiple humanitarian organizations” will be used by the agency as it distributes supplies in Gaza, but also would not answer specific questions about whether those groups include UNRWA.

“Aid must reach people in Gaza through all available avenues to address the dire humanitarian crisis,” the USAID spokesman said. “The primary U.N. partner that will be managing the reception and dispatch of the aid coming into the offloading area of the maritime pier will be the Logistics Cluster, but the Humanitarian Maritime Corridor is intended to be used by multiple humanitarian organizations.”

Congressional sources working on the issue said that it is nearly impossible for the Biden administration to distribute aid from the pier without enlisting UNRWA’s humanitarian channels in Gaza.

The State Department declined to comment, citing USAID’s chief role in aid distribution.

Around 10 percent of UNRWA’s workforce is believed to be affiliated with Hamas. Congress froze U.S. aid to the organization earlier this year as it became increasingly clear that Hamas is using U.N. facilities as operations centers to conduct attacks on Israel.

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Republican critics say the Biden administration is using the pier to bolster UNRWA at a time when its alleged links to Hamas forced many international donors to freeze their funding.

While U.S. funding remains frozen, the State Department told the Free Beacon in March that it continues to work with the group and coordinate activities with international partners.

“Congress has explicitly prohibited any U.S. taxpayer dollars to be spent on the Hamas front organization known as UNRWA,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon.

“The Biden administration involving UNRWA in any part of their half-baked Gaza pier scheme would be illegal.”

Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced last week that he is planning to force the Senate to vote on continued support for the aid operation.

Cruz is eyeing a War Powers Resolution vote that would stop the American military from engaging in “construction, maintenance, and operation” of the pier, Axios reported.