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Lawmakers question Biden funding for group with ties to Oct. 7 attack

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U.S. House Oversight lawmakers are demanding answers about the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a group that receives taxpayer dollars but had workers linked to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken dated June 11 laying out UNRWA’s alleged ties to Hamas, a terrorist group which is embroiled in a war with Israel.

The Biden administration restored funding to the group in 2021.

“As we wrote previously, the Committee is concerned by the Biden Administration’s decision to renew funding for UNRWA. The underlying concerns have not changed,” the letter said. “Reports emerged in February that several UNRWA staff participated in the October 7, 2023, terrorist attacks by Hamas. More recent reports show Hamas compounds located under UNRWA buildings in Gaza City. The previous administration suspended funding for the agency because it assessed that UNRWA was ‘irredeemably flawed.’ UNRWA has for years used its classrooms to promote violence, hate speech, jihad, martyrdom, and antisemitism.”

The committee has been asking for answers for months but says so far it has received an “inadequate” response. Israel has called for the U.N. agency to be ended.

“Rockets have been found on multiple occasions in UNRWA schools,” the letter continued. “Following the October 7 terrorist attacks, there was widespread enthusiasm for the attacks by UNRWA teachers and staff.”

The State Department last year released its “framework for cooperation” with the group to help Palestinian refugees.

“Between 2005 and 2018, the United States and UNRWA (the ‘Participants’) worked in partnership through Frameworks for Cooperation to provide humanitarian assistance, human development, and protection to UNRWA’s program participants in accordance with UNRWA’s mandate as approved by the United Nations General Assembly,” the document said. “The Framework for Cooperation was restarted in 2021.

“The United States and UNRWA are jointly committed to addressing the needs of Palestinian refugees through effective provision of humanitarian assistance and protection, and to promoting the enhanced human development potential of Palestinian refugees,” the document continues.

The lawmakers’ letter argues UNRWA has a “pattern of extremism and antisemitism” and that the State Department has not provided evidence it is holding the group accountable.

“Importantly, the State Department still has not explained why it decided to renew funding to UNRWA,” the letter said. “The list of safeguards and oversight mechanisms provided in your response only underscores the Committee’s initial concerns. Given the Committee’s previously raised concerns regarding the decision to renew cooperation with UNRWA, and the State Department’s failure to comply with the request, we seek information directly from Ms. Valls Noyes.”

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