Funding deal that Biden said he’d sign ‘immediately’ includes ban on UNRWA aid – Washington Examiner

A massive funding deal between Congress and the White House includes a ban on funding for the primary humanitarian aid organization in Gaza for one year.

The deal, which was supported by President Joe Biden on Tuesday, would cost the United Nations agency millions of dollars and require other countries like Saudi Arabia to make up the gap. The ban on funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was not mentioned when the White House stated support for the deal on Tuesday. It comes as millions of civilians in Gaza are facing starvation amid Israel’s war with Hamas.

Israelis display body bags as they block the entrance to UNWRA, the main U.N. agency providing aid in the Gaza Strip, during a protest in Jerusalem, Wednesday, March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

“This [agreement] will undermine the effort to assist starving Gazans and potentially further weaken regional stability,” the UNRWA told CBS News in a statement on Wednesday. 

The deal would delay funding until March 2025.

Before the war, the agency largely operated schools and provided health services to millions of Palestinians. But they have since become the main resource on the ground for delivering all kinds of aid, including food. 

The deal comes after the Biden administration ​​temporarily paused funding for the organization in January after Israel claimed the agency employed 12 people who participated in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack. 

“Not a single taxpayer dollar should go to UNRWA after the serious allegations of its members participating in the October 7th attacks,” Sen. James Risch (R-ID) said in a statement to the New York Times. Risch is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

The agency said it has fired nine of the 12 accused employees, and two others were dead, but White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said more reform would need to be made.

“There is no other organization that has the reach, the tentacles, and the distribution capabilities that UNRWA has in Gaza. That’s just a fact,” Kirby said. “Obviously, UNRWA is going to have to reform itself, clearly, because that’s just unacceptable behavior by anybody.”


Although the change in funding is a significant drop for Palestinians, the U.S. military has been airdropping food into Gaza and is in the process of building a floating dock 3 miles off the country’s shore to deliver additional aid. 

The text of the deal, which still needs to be passed by Congress, has not been released so far but is expected in the next 24 hours. If passed, Biden has vowed to sign it.