Creating new perspectives since 2009

US will not restart UNRWA aid until investigation completed - officials

February 9, 2024 at 8:22 pm

Palestinian refugees hold banners during a protest against the UNWRA’s decision on aid cuts and downsizing plans in Bethlehem, West Bank on 26 September 2018 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]

The Biden administration plans to wait for an internal investigation of the United Nations Agency for Palestinian refugees to conclude before resuming aid to the organisation, US officials told the Arab-American community leaders in Michigan, Reuters reports.

The US Agency for International Development Administrator, Samantha Power, and other senior US officials visited the 2024 election battleground state of Michigan on Thursday, amid widespread criticism there of President Joe Biden’s policy on Israel, his failure to call for a ceasefire on attacks on Gaza and continued military aid.

During the meeting, the officials said the US remained committed to providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, but would wait for the investigation into UNWRA to be complete, said Ali Dagher, a Lebanese-American attorney who took part in one of four discussions with US officials in Dearborn, a majority Arab-American city near Detroit.

Abbas Alawieh, a former senior congressional staffer who also participated in one of the discussions, told Reuters that Power spoke at length about UNWRA, but indicated Biden was not planning to reverse his decision to halt aid to the Agency.

OPINION: UNRWA is a direct consequence of Israeli colonialism

Sixteen countries suspended their funding to UNRWA after Israel accused 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in the Gaza Strip of taking part in the Hamas-led assault on Israel last autumn.

UNRWA officials say they expect the UN oversight office’s preliminary investigation report to take several weeks.

Alawieh, in a separate meeting with reporters, said US officials conceded “mistakes and missteps” had been made in the situation overall, but focused on the administration’s messaging and declined to make any commitment to push the President – even privately – to call for a ceasefire.

“They did tell us in that meeting that they … expect that the President will be shifting his language,” Alawieh said. “But we’re not looking for language shifts. … We’re looking for action from President Biden that saves lives.”

Israel began its military offensive after the Hamas group from Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages on 7 October.  Gaza’s Health Ministry says at least 27,940 Palestinians have been confirmed killed, with nearly 70,000 more injured and thousands more feared buried under rubble.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

There has been only one truce so far, for a week at the end of November.

OPINION: Defunding is the final phase of the Israeli genocide