The Biden administration sent millions in government assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for FY24 amid allegations of terrorist ties against federal employees prior to the administration’s pause of new funding.
The administration announced a pause on new funding would be enacted last week over allegations that some of its members were ‘involved’ in the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel. The U.S. government had already earmarked $51 million for FY24 prior to the pause.
The funds were a result of an emergency request for Gaza and the West Bank following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel, and the war that resulted.
‘The pause decision was well after the initial tranche to UNRWA’s oPt Flash Appeal of $51M,’ a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital. ‘That funding was obligated back in mid-November in the early part of the crisis, about 100 days before the Jan. 26 pause.’
Some politicians criticized the spending following the State Department’s pause in funding. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted President Biden on the floor on Tuesday for the aid, while calling for a stronger retaliatory response against Iranian proxies.
‘As I’ve said before, there is no room for the tired cast of corruption and terrorism in the future of the Palestinian people. As such, Senate Republicans will not accept any legislation that allows taxpayer dollars to fund UNRWA,’ McConnell said.
At the time the pause was implemented, about $300,000 had been approved for UNRWA but not yet obligated, the State Department spokesperson said. The approved funds were frozen as a result of the pause.
‘No further funds will be approved for UNRWA during the pause,’ the department said. ‘The majority of UNRWA’s funding comes from donors other than the United States.’
According to a USAID fact sheet, the funds were assigned to go toward food assistance, protection, shelter and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Biden administration has sent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to UNRWA in recent years — arguing the agency provides much needed humanitarian aid to Palestinian territories — after reversing former President Trump’s decision to cut funding to the group.
Critics have long argued that UNRWA is directly tied to Hamas terrorists.
On Tuesday, New Jersey GOP Rep. Chris Smith introduced a bill, known as the ‘Stop Support United Nations Relief and Works Agency Act of 2024,’ that would cut off U.S. funding.
Twelve UNRWA employees were allegedly ‘involved’ in the Oct. 7 attack, and additional U.S. funding could resume subject to an investigation from the United Nations.
UNRWA, citing information provided by Israeli authorities, fired the accused employees last week and announced an investigation ‘to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance’ and ‘establish the truth without delay,’ Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Tuesday the federal government supports ‘the work that UNRWA does’ and called it ‘critical’ to the region.
‘There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food, medicine at the scale that UNRWA does,’ Miller said. ‘We want to see that work continued, which is why it is so important that the United Nations take this matter seriously, that they investigate it, that there is accountability for anyone who is found to engage in wrongdoing, and that they take whatever other measures are appropriate to ensure that this sort of thing cannot happen again.’
Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report.