The federal government sent an “initial tranche” from $51 million to the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee aid agency UNRWA after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7 — before reports about its employees’ involvement in the attack prompted the State Department to temporarily pause funding.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the fiscal year 2024 funds for assistance with providing food, water, sanitation, shelter, protection, hygiene and other health needs in the West Bank and Gaza, according to a Jan. 16 fact sheet.
The announcement preceded the shocking revelation that 12 UNRWA staff members participated in the terror attack — with some kidnapping and killing Israelis, according to an intelligence dossier.
A majority of UNRWA staff work as teachers in the region, and seven of the 12 held education jobs. Roughly 1,200 UNRWA employees in total —10% of its workforce in the Gaza Strip — were also found to be linked to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini fired the staff directly involved and launched an internal investigation on Jan. 26.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the same day that the US had also “temporarily paused additional funding” to review the matter.
A department spokesperson told Fox News on Friday that the “pause decision was well after the initial tranche” of the $51 million was sent last November. It’s unclear what that amount was.
Roughly $300,000 had just been approved for UNRWA when the pause was announced late this month but had not yet been sent.
Reps for the State Department did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
In a Tuesday congressional hearing, Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) accused the department of making an “outrageous” decision to delay the suspension announcement for two days to let some of the earmarked funds go out.
“I’m concerned the administration is playing a shell game with us,” he said in his opening remarks before a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability hearing.
“It does appear as though they may have waited to make this announcement until after they allowed for a disbursement of tens of millions of dollars to go out to UNRWA on or before Jan. 24. And if that’s the case, it should be considered outrageous.”
Mast has also introduced legislation to disband UNRWA, and House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) floated a bill to permanently ban its funding.
The Trump administration cut off funding to the UN agency in 2018, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation” — but President Biden’s State Department resumed the aid shortly after he assumed office in 2021.
Since then, the feds has given more than $730 million in assistance to UNRWA and until recently was its largest donor — despite warnings from watchdogs that humanitarian funds were being diverted to terror groups in Gaza and the UN agency’s long history of indoctrinating Palestinian schoolchildren with pro-terrorist, antisemitic propaganda.
In November, the USAID Office of Inspector General noted a “high-risk for potential diversion” of US humanitarian assistance that could “fall into the hands of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) including, but not limited to, Hamas.”
The Geneva-based UN Watch also has produced several reports documenting the ties between the agency, Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, the most recent of which showed 3,000 UNRWA teachers in a Telegram group shared “messages, photos and videos cheering and celebrating the massacre of Oct. 7.”
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer told Fox News on Thursday the agency’s involvement had not “surprised him” because his organization “for the past nine years has been documenting widespread and systematic incitement to jihadi terrorism, calls to murder Jews, and glorification of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis by UNRWA teachers, school principals, and other employees in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan.”
“We had meetings with senior officials in the administration, the State Department, when they reinstated funding,” Neuer told FNC anchor John Roberts on “America Reports.”
“When we told them about the entanglement of UNRWA employees with terrorism, the encouragement and promotion of terrorism, the senior official of the State Department said he didn’t know what we were talking about. He thought everything was great at UNRWA,” he added.
“The State Department, giving hundreds of millions of dollars, never asked us for more information about how to ensure that American taxpayers are not funding terrorism.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on countries that have cut off funding since the scandalous reports — including the US, Germany, Italy, Australia, Finland and the UK — to resume aid to UNRWA, adding that the international body would also conduct a “comprehensive and independent” review.
Amid the investigations, a Labor member of Norway’s Parliament, Asmund Aukrust, went ahead and nominated UNRWA for a Nobel Peace Prize, saying their “work has been crucial for over 70 years and even more vital in the last three months.”