US sneaks UNRWA defunding into Israel, Ukraine weapons aid bill

US sneaks UNRWA defunding into Israel, Ukraine weapons aid bill
The US has passed a bill banning UNRWA funding with a new bill on Israel and Ukraine weapons supplies, despite an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
3 min read
14 February, 2024
UNRWA is a vital lifeline for Palestinians in Gaza [Getty]

The US Senate has passed a bill ban that will ban funding of the Palestinian relief agency UNRWA as part of a $95 billion aid package to Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and others.

Washington and its allies cut funding to UNRWA last month - a lifeline for millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere - following unproven allegations by Israel that its aid workers were involved in Hamas's 7 October attacks. UNRWA has strongly denied the claims.

Now US politicians appear to want to make the policy law, with the 'HR 815 bill - Relieve Act' stating that no aid should be provided to UNRWA, despite Gaza suffering its worst humanitarian crisis in living memory.

"None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act and prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs may be made available for a contribution, grant, or other payment to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, notwithstanding any other provision of law," the bill reads.

It will provide $9.15 billion toward humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, and Ukraine, but explicitly rules out providing money to UNRWA, the chief agency supporting Palestinian refugees across the region.

The package also pledges $14.1 billion to support Israel's military campaign in Gaza, which has seen more than 29,000 Palestinians killed, the vast majority civilians, and laid waste to the enclave.

Despite reported frustrations in Washington with Israel's war strategy, extremist rhetoric from members of the Israeli government, and a lack of a plan for the 'day after', the US is continuing to help bankroll the war on Gaza.

Ministers such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir have called for Palestinians to be forced out of Gaza and illegal settlements to be re-established in the enclave.

Biden has also been reportedly angered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to US feedback on the war, reportedly calling him an "***hole", particularly after the premier ruled out a two-state solution.

There has been some change in attitudes toward Israel from even its strongest allies with the threat of famine, disease, and further massacres said to be imminent.

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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday made a thinly veiled call on the US to cut arms supplies to Israel due to high civilian casualties in its war in Gaza.

The US and UK have also sanctioned four Israeli settlers accused of violent attacks or other rights abuses in the occupied West Bank.

The bill will also provide Ukraine with $60.06 billion in aid to help it restock diminished weapons supplies.

An additional $2.44 billion will be provided to the Pentagon for anti-Houthi operations in the Red Sea following a spate of attacks on shipping in the area.

Another $4.83 billion would go to US' partners in the Asia-Pacific region, including Taiwan, following China's growing military might.