Israel lauds Congress’ blow to UN agency with alleged Hamas ties as investigations continue

Congress included a measure to block funding to a controversial United Nations agency that is under investigation for alleged ties to Hamas. Israel praised the move to prevent funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as part of the spending bill passed early Saturday morning.”The historic ban on US funding to UNRWA that passed today with overwhelming bipartisan support, demonstrates what we knew all along: UNRWA is part of the problem and can not be part of the solution,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote in a post on social media platform X, adding a plea for other nations to follow suit. “UNRWA will not be a part of Gaza’s landscape in the aftermath of Hamas,” Katz wrote. “Thousands of UNRWA employees are involved in Hamas terror activities, and their facilities were used for terrorist purposes.”,UNRWA suffered a debilitating budget freeze after allegations surfaced in January that at least 12 of its employees had ties to and assisted Hamas during the October 7 attack on Israel. The U.S. first cut funding based on information Israel had shared, followed by several other major allies, and UNRWA fired the 12 employees named in the allegations.SENATE PASSES MAMMOTH $1.2T SPENDING PACKAGE AFTER BRIEF PARTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNSome nations, such as Canada and Sweden, resumed funding based on their own preliminary reviews, but the U.S. doubled down on its commitment to keep UNRWA at a distance with a new provision included in the $1.2 trillion government spending bill passed on Friday night in the House and approved in the Senate on Saturday. The bill included a ban on funding for UNRWA for the remainder of calendar year 2024 and blocks any funding until March 25, 2025. “Notwithstanding any other provision of any other division of this Act, funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act or other Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, including provisions of Acts providing supplemental appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, may not be used for a contribution, grant, or other payment to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency,” the item states. HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS CHAIR ‘CAN’T DEFEND’ JOHNSON AMID PUSH TO OUST SPEAKERUNRWA earlier this week argued in a statement that the funding cut will “undermine the effort to assist Gazans and potentially further weaken regional stability.” The bill does, however, set aside $175 million in funds for other humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza, which will be distributed through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to The Times of Israel. The funds remain subject to severe scrutiny of spending and dispersal and subsequent review in order to avoid diversion to Hamas or other terrorist and extremist entities in the Palestinian territories.HOUSE REPUBLICANS SLAM $200 MILLION IN FUNDING FOR NEW FBI HQThe U.S. is also pursuing President Biden’s plan to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean Sea to provide a maritime corridor for humanitarian aid delivery. The first vessel carrying equipment necessary to build the pier departed from Cyprus on March 10, The Military Times reported. UNRWA remains under two investigations to determine the full extent of its alleged ties to Hamas, which Israeli intelligence alleges run so deep that it includes hundreds if not thousands of UNRWA employees with ties to the terrorist organization. The United Nations investigation, carried out by its Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), will publish its findings in April, but an interim report provided to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres provided information that led some nations to reverse their funding freeze for the agency. Another, independent review carried out by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna commenced following the allegations against the UNRWA employees, specifically citing concerns that UNRWA was not maintaining its neutrality policy. Colonna’s group issued an interim report on March 20, 2024, with a completed report expected exactly one month later. The interim report claimed that URNWA has “a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the Humanitarian Principle of neutrality, and the group has also identified critical areas that still need to be addressed.”
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