U.S. Aid to Gaza Almost Certain to End Up in Hamas Hands

On October 18, the White House announced that it would send approximately $100 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank. Although the administration offered scant details, given the lack of other organizations present on the ground, it is most likely this aid would be distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Unfortunately, both groups have a history, including in the current conflict, of either failing to stop terrorists from appropriating aid meant for civilians or of, in the PA’s case, actively “incentivizing terror,” in the words of Congress. UNRWA in Gaza’s former operations head, Matthias Schmale, said in 2021 that UNRWA “cannot work in a place like Gaza without coordinating with the local authorities,” namely Hamas.   

Despite Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s assurances that the aid will “flow to civilians in Gaza in a way that does not benefit Hamas,” the terrorist group’s well-established history of seizing humanitarian assistance—including tens of thousands of liters of fuel and large quantities of other supplies from UNRWA since the current war began—suggests it will divert the aid for its own purposes. It also overlooks the complicated but too-close-for-comfort relationship between UNRWA and Hamas, with the aid group employing Hamas members, failing to stop Hamas from using its facilities to store and launch weapons, and filling its educational textbooks with terrorist and antisemitic propaganda. 

In the West Bank, any aid directed to the PA would, in violation of U.S. law, facilitate the group’s ongoing pay-for-slay scheme, which encourages terrorism by providing direct payments to terrorists’ families. These payouts totaled nearly $3 million in October 2023 alone.    

To guarantee Palestinians receive needed humanitarian assistance, and to uphold U.S. credibility, the United States should follow through on President Biden’s guarantee that “if Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, and it will end.”

Click here to read the NatSec Brief.


Yoni Tobin – Policy Analyst