Republican legislators are investigating whether American aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank has ended up in the possession of Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
Based on documents acquired by Republican members of the House Oversight Committee, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reduced its financial support for Palestinian regions significantly. In fiscal year 2017, it provided roughly $286 million, but by fiscal year 2020, that amount dwindled to about $18 million.
During President Donald Trump’s leadership, USAID also ended its funding contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Following President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, USAID reversed the trend, and foreign aid to the Palestinian regions began to increase once again.
However, this renewed funding faced challenges. According to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, a 2021 draft memo from the U.S. State Department expressed concerns that this renewed U.S. aid spending could potentially benefit Hamas and other U.S.-designated terrorist organizations.
“Due to its overall strength and level of control over Gaza, we assess there is a high-risk Hamas could potentially derive indirect, unintentional benefit from U.S. assistance to Gaza. There is less but still, some risk U.S. assistance would benefit other designated groups,” the 2021 draft memo reads.
The concerns raised in the 2021 State Department draft align with the cautions raised in a March 2021 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The GAO report indicated that prior to the cessation of USAID funding to Palestinians during the Trump administration, the agency had been successful in ensuring that its direct funding awards didn’t reach organizations associated with terrorism. However, the same level of assurance couldn’t be applied to the program’s sub-awards.
The House Oversight Committee reiterated the concerns about USAID spending after Hamas gunmen breached the Israel-Gaza barrier on Oct. 7 and proceeded to kill hundreds of people and take around 200 hostages back to Gaza.
In a Tuesday letter to USAID Administrator Samantha Power, the Republican majority on the House Oversight Committee asked for any risk assessments the USAID may have conducted regarding its humanitarian efforts in Gaza and the West Bank and any evidence the agency may have gathered indicating foreign terrorist organizations benefitted from these projects.
“The scale and complexity of the barbaric Hamas atrocities that commenced on October 7th in Israel make it clear that significant financial resources were used for these attacks,” the letter reads.
“Public reports state that the Islamic Republic of Iran provides Hamas with direct funding, amounting to tens of millions annually. We also know that the Biden Administration dramatically increased funding to Gaza and the West Bank and on October 18th, he publicly announced an additional $100 million in U.S. aid to the area. It is vital to fully account for U.S. funds intended for humanitarian purposes to ensure they do not directly or indirectly fund terrorism.”
The Oversight Committee Republicans called on USAID to turn over their relevant documents by Nov. 7.
In an emailed response to an NTD News request for comment, a USAID spokesperson did not specifically address the House Republicans’ investigative efforts or the 2021 documents they cited but stressed that the agency remains committed to ensuring U.S. humanitarian aid in Gaza and the West Bank goes to its intended purposes.
“We take every precaution to safeguard all U.S. taxpayer-supported humanitarian assistance for its intended purpose and support Palestinian civilians directly. To that end, USAID utilizes safeguards for assistance to Gaza to ensure that aid is delivered without Hamas influence and Hamas does not receive direct or indirect benefit,” the agency spokesperson said.
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