Some of President Joe Biden’s $100 million in humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza and the West Bank is likely to fall into the hands of Hamas terrorists, a government watchdog warned Friday.
Biden pledged on Oct. 18 the fuel, medical supplies, food and water included in the package will not be diverted to Hamas, which has political and military control of Gaza. The United Nations (U.N.) and Israel maintain oversight of aid trucks heading in and out of Gaza, according to the State Department, but there is a high risk of diversion to Hamas, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s internal watchdog warned in an alert distributed Friday.
“USAID has identified this area as high-risk for potential diversion and misuse of U.S.-funded assistance,” the USAID Office of the Inspector General (OIG) warned.
The OIG is tasked with ensuring no U.S. aid ends up in the hands of foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas. In the past, the watchdog has identified cases where terrorist organizations pressured aid workers, imposed fees on non-governmental organizations that receive USAID funding and channel aid toward their preferred beneficiaries or humanitarian camps.
In 2018, USAID received $2 million in a lawsuit over claims an award recipient lied about previous associations with Hamas.
“USAID OIG has identified deliberate interference and efforts to divert humanitarian assistance in regions where FTO activity is prevalent,” the warning stated.
“To date, we don’t have reports either from the U.N. or from Israel that this assistance has been diverted from its intended recipients, but it’s something that we’re going to track very closely. Can I promise you in this committee that there will be 100% delivery to the designated recipients? No,” Blinken said.
“There will inevitably be some spillage; we haven’t seen it to date, but I think we have to anticipate that,” he added.
Current assistance flows into Gaza through the Rafa gate on the Egyptian border under the supervision of Israel, the U.S. and U.N. agencies, Blinken said. Israel inspects every truck full of supplies at a checkpoint in the area so that “every truck that goes in is verified by Israel as well as by the Egyptian authorities.”
The U.N. transports supplies from the border to additional U.N.-run distribution sites throughout the territory, Blinken said. The U.S. and others have the ability to track the assistance and contact the designated recipients, he added.
Hospitals in Gaza are running out of fuel and medical supplies necessary to operate, and access to fresh water is severely restricted, according to Blinken. More than 1 million people have been displaced from their homes, about half of which are under U.N. care.
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