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Bipartisan Group of Senators Demand Investigation into UNRWA’s Ties to Hamas

The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday on an effort by a bipartisan group of senators asking for accountability from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), especially due to the agency’s ties to Hamas. The senators called for an investigation in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Accusing UNRWA of maintaining active and extensive ties with Hamas— and of supporting its activities throughout the month-long war— Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote a letter this week to US Secretary of State John Kerry accusing the UN agency of bias and characterizing its role in the conflict as “troubling.”

UNRWA, an ostensibly neutral agency tasked with administering aid to Palestinian refugees throughout the region, adopted a political role in the heat of the conflict, during which at least four of its facilities were badly damaged and many of their inhabitants killed. During the deadliest days of the war, UNRWA officials went on record accusing the Israeli government of violating international humanitarian law.

In a letter explaining the impetus for an investigation, Kirk wrote:

The United States is the largest single donor to UNRWA and has contributed approximately $5 billion to the organization since 1950. In 2013, the U.S. made a $294 million contribution to UNRWA.

“I am demanding a credible and independent assessment of UNRWA’s actions during this crisis,” Senator Kirk said. “Given UNRWA’s ties to terrorism in the past, U.S. taxpayers deserve immediate answers and full transparency regarding their intentions and actions. The State Department must make clear to the U.N. that it needs to take all necessary steps to prevent Hamas from using taxpayer-funded property to launch terror attacks against our allies.”

The senators demanded an investigation of the ties between UNRWA and Hamas. Among the incidents cited by the senators were the election of Hamas members to UNRWA’s union worker’s board, and the discovery of weapons caches at UNRWA facilities three separate times during Operation Protective Edge.

[Photo: Ron Cogswell / Flickr ]