Republican lawmakers back to work after finally electing U.S. House of Representatives’ Speaker Mike Johnson are now demanding answers to whether Biden administration’s U.S. aid for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have ended up in Hamas’ coffers, and more importantly, have financially contributed to the Hamas attacks inside Israel on Oct. 7.
Sources have told CDM that Israeli intelligence has learned that some Hamas militants have claimed they were promised a stipend - anywhere from an apartment to $10,000 - for their participation in the attacks in Israel.
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have obtained records stipulating that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) cut funding for the Palestinian regions from about $286 million in 2017 to around $18 million by 2020.
That was a drastic reduction by the Trump administration.
Former President Trump’s administration also discontinued USAID’s funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
But, the USAID monetary spigots were turned back on once the Biden Administration came into power in 2021.
It was a policy decision in the opposite direction from Trump’s administration policy.
Samantha Power heads USAID for the Biden Administration. She served as US Ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration.
A 2021 U.S. State Department draft memo has raised concerns that Hamas and other U.S.-designated terrorist organizations could stand to gain from this reversed policy.
"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 draft State Department are in line with warnings raised in a March 2021 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The GAO report stated that prior to the Trump-era cutoff of USAID to the Palestinians, the agency had managed to ensure its direct funding awards did not go to terrorist organizations, but could not determine that for sub-contractors, or sub-awards.
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 Congressional 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 letter further reads.
The letter notes further specific information.
“President Biden reversed course, and in April of 2021 announced that his administration would send $235 million in Palestinian aid, to include $75 million in economic. and development assistance in Gaza and the West Bank. The Biden Administration also reversed the previous administration’s decision to halt funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), claiming to have received commitments from UNRWA to enhance transparency and address concerns regarding antisemitism. The April 2021 announcement included $150 million in humanitarian assistance for UNRWA,” reads the Congressional letter to Samantha Power at USAID.
The Oversight Committee closes by requesting specific State Department documents:
The Oversight Committee Republicans have given USAID until Nov. 7 to turn over the relevant documents.
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