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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

State Department Minimizes Impact of Frozen U.S. Funding for U.N. in Gaza

On Tuesday, the United States Department of State played down the significance of its decision to halt funding for the primary United Nations aid agency in Gaza. The department explained that it had already provided virtually all of the money that Congress had allotted for that purpose, and that the Biden administration hoped the situation could be resolved as quickly as possible.

Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the State Department, said on Tuesday that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has received more than 99 percent of the American monies that were authorized by Congress for the organization.

After allegations made by Israel that a dozen workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) participated in the assaults carried out by Hamas on October 7, with some of them keeping hostages inside Gaza, the State Department “temporarily” halted the money on Friday. According to the organization known as U.N. Watch, at least seventeen more donor states have also made the decision to cease their payments to the agency.

The decision has been condemned by human rights organizations and progressive Democrats in Congress, who have said that it would prevent innocent Palestinians from receiving relief that is necessary and urgently required. However, Mr. Miller said that the United States Department of State has sent all of the approximately $121 million planned for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to the agency, indicating that the immediate impact of the United States’ actions inside Gaza would be very minimal.

The underlying issue, according to officials from the United States, is how much more money Congress will be ready to sanction for an organization that many Republicans reject for what they consider to be anti-Israel prejudice and Hamas sympathies. Representatives testifying before a panel of the House of Representatives on Tuesday condemned the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and demanded that it be restructured or replaced.

With the United Nations Relief and Works organization (UNRWA) employing as many as 1,300 Hamas militants, the Israeli government claims that at least 12 workers of the organization were involved in the assault that took place on October 7. It is estimated by Israel that around 1,200 people were killed as a result of the assault, and an additional 240 individuals were held prisoner.

Despite the fact that the United States had not independently validated the allegations, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Monday that the United States considered them to be “highly credible.”

Prior to the charges made by Israel, the United States Department of State intended to make its subsequent payment to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the early summer. However, due to the ongoing budget impasse in Congress, it is now unknown when a new budget for the State Department may be approved. Moreover, even if this is the case, the funds must be able to get the support of Republicans who were already opposed against UNRWA before to the revelation of its suspected connections to the assault in Israel.

The decision made by donor nations to halt their financing for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) prompted his statements. Agn├Ęs Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, issued a statement on Monday in which she referred to the fact that nations, including the United States, had halted their support as “shocking, indeed inhumane.” Among the 30,000 persons who worked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), she said that six workers had been terminated.

Even though the amount that the United States is withholding is a very minor portion of the approximately $1.2 billion yearly budget that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has, officials from the agency have warned that funding freezes by a large number of donor nations may potentially undermine the humanitarian work that the organization does. The United States of America has been the greatest single contributor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the majority of years; nevertheless, other donors jointly give the majority of the agency’s yearly budget.

Midway through the month of October, Vice President Biden made an announcement on humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The White House issued a statement stating that the assistance will be supplied “through trusted partners including United Nations agencies” and international nongovernmental groups.

The issue of financing for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has taken on a politicized tone in Washington. For many years, Republicans have repeated Israeli charges that staff of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have shown sympathy for Palestinian terrorists and have permitted weapons to be housed in their premises.

Just before to the strikes carried out by Hamas, Mr. Blinken became involved in the complicated case. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza was receiving $75 million in food aid earmarked for the area during the autumn of last year. While there were concerns of widespread famine, Mr. Blinken managed to get over the Republican hold on the money and release it.

Although the action was not made public by the State Department, a division of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the United States expressed gratitude to Mr. Blinken on social media on October 3. Gaza’s border barrier with Israel was broken by Hamas terrorists four days after the first breach.

David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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