Lawmakers introduce legislation holding UNRWA accountable for joining, assisting Hamas terror attack in Israel

Members of Congress are looking to take action against a United Nations agency serving Palestinian refugees in Gaza, amid reports the international organization assisted the Hamas terror group.

Reps. Brian Mast, R-Fla., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., are introducing legislation that would demand the U.S. State Department does everything it can to return American tax dollars that went to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

“For way too long, UNRWA has masqueraded as a relief organization, while in reality serving as an incubator for Palestinian terrorists. Intelligence reports indicate that as many as 10% of UNRWA workers have direct links to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihadists,” Mast said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

He added: “It’s ludicrous that our hard-earned American tax dollars were going to fund this crap. The State Department needs to do everything it can to recoup this money.


An UNRWA truck crosses into Egypt from Gaza

“UNRWA has masqueraded as a relief organization,” Rep. Mast, R-Florida, told Fox News Digital. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo)

The legislation comes after allegations surfaced that at least a dozen UNRWA employees joined or otherwise assisted Hamas terrorists during their overnight attack on Israeli border communities on Oct. 7. The attack left more than 1,200 people dead, and Hamas took more than 200 hostages from a music festival and from their homes back into Gaza.

After reports that some UNRWA members helped Hamas, the Biden administration announced on Jan. 26 that it would stop additional taxpayer dollars from going to the agency.

Just days before the freeze, however, the administration had already transferred $121 million to UNRWA.

Mast and Gottheimer’s bipartisan bill hopes to recoup that sum to the U.S.

UNRWA sign

From 2009 to 2024, a little under $4 billion in taxpayer dollars was given to the humanitarian relief organization, according to a Fox News Digital review. (Mahmoud Issa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The legislation is part of a continued effort from the U.S. — and other countries — to separate itself from the agency.


U.S. intelligence in February said it was likely some employees of UNRWA participated in the attack, but it also said it could not verify Israeli allegations of wider links between the agency and UNRWA, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In March, the Israeli government named 12 UNRWA employees who had ties to and assisted Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel in a dossier that it shared with several of its allies. Three were suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of the hostages or keeping them in their homes.

Brian Mast

Representative Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida, introduced legislation that would demand the U.S. State Department does everything it can to return American tax dollars from UNRWA. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The agency fired the 12 employees named in the allegations, but the damage was already done and UNRWA lost hundreds of millions of dollars from donors after the dossier was sent.

The information includes allegations that approximately 1,200 employees shared some connection with Hamas — including around 17% of UNRWA teachers (out of a total 8,300) and around 20% of UNRWA school principals and deputy principals (out of a total 500) are members of Hamas. Ties to the group extend to UNRWA workers in positions related to relief and humanitarian aid, with about 10% of the 151 relief workers, and members of UNRWA’s health services.

Rep. Gottheimer

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ, join Mast in introducing the UNRWA legislation. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The dossier also included excerpts from textbooks used in the agency’s school curriculum that allegedly include glorification of martyrdom and antisemitic tropes. Maps provided to children in their textbooks show a singular land where Israel and the Palestinian territories exist but labeled as a singular Palestine.

After the report surfaced, Congress passed legislation to defund UNRWA until 2025. 


Other governments similarly cut financial ties to UNRWA.

The report and subsequent response comes years after former President Trump took action against UNRWA when he was serving in the White House.

Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report.

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