Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking today to a conference for Gaza donors
JERUSALEM – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today that a $900 million U.S. aid package for the Palestinians was meant to foster regional peace and would not fall into the hands of the Hamas terrorist organization.
But the aid is slated to be received both by a U.N. agency that openly employs Hamas as well as by the Palestinian Authority, which is in talks to create a unity government with Hamas.
“We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands,” Clinton told a news conference at an international donors meeting in Egypt.
She repeated than no money would go to Hamas, which the U.S. maintains must recognize the right of Israel to exist, renounce terrorism and affirm past Israeli and Palestinian agreements.
The U.S. considers Hamas a terrorist group. Hamas’ charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel. The group is responsible for scores of deadly suicide bombings, shooting attacks, border raids and rocket launchings aimed at Jewish civilian population centers.
The $900 million U.S. in funding – not yet approved by Congress – includes $300 million earmarked to provide “humanitarian aid” for Gaza following Israel’s 22-day war there aimed at denting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure.
A U.S. official reported the money will go to the PA and to nongovernmental organizations, most notably the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, or UNWRA, which administers aid to millions of Palestinian “refugees” in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Israeli security officials warned that since Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, any reconstruction efforts in the territory are likely to bolster Hamas, whether the Islamist group directly receives the funds or not. They also said the PA has previously used donor funds to pay salaries for Hamas officials and the terrorist group’s police force in Gaza, which includes scores of terrorists among its ranks.
Further, Hamas and the soon-to-be cash-infused PA are in talks to join a unity government. The talks are said to be favored by the Obama administration.
In recent meetings with representatives of donor countries, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu warned that infusing the Hamas-controlled Gaza with funds or construction efforts before Hamas stopped firing rockets at Israel would send a message to the terrorist group that it can continue its onslaught with little consequence.
Netanyahu also reportedly said reconstructing Gaza with international aid could make it more difficult for Israel to launch a future anti-terror operation in the territory since the Israeli army may hit locations rebuilt with foreign donations.
Reacting to the news of the pledged U.S. funds, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, recently told WND, “We are very happy with this decision.”
“In the first place, this money will go toward reconstructing efforts,” said Barhoum, speaking by cell phone from Gaza.
Hamas, UNWRA closely linked
The $900 million is also slated for UNWRA. From 1990 until today, teachers affiliated with the Islamic Bloc, which is formally associated with Hamas, have won elections as representatives of the teachers’ section of the UNRWA union. By 2003, they held all seats and fully constituted the executive committee of this section of the union. The publication of UNWRA school books in Gaza is coordinated with Hamas.
Saeed Siam, Hamas former interior minister and one of the leaders of the group’s so-called military wing, taught in UNRWA schools from 1980 to 2003 and served as a representative to the UNWRA union. He was killed during an Israeli air strike last month.
Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the man who founded Hamas and has been immortalized by it, worked as a UNRWA teacher from 1967 to 1994.
On July 6, 2001, Hamas convened a conference in the UNRWA school in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, with students, teachers and school administrators in attendance. Yassin presented his ideology, and then an official named Saheil Alhinadi, who represented the teaching sector of UNRWA, praised students who had recently carried out suicide attacks against Israel, declaring “the road to Palestine passes through the blood of the fallen, and these fallen have written history with parts of their flesh and their bodies.”
A 2002 report from the Intelligence and Terrorism Center at Israel’s Center for Special Studies, a think tank associated with Israeli intelligence, documented how a number of wanted terrorists were found hiding inside schools run by UNRWA.
“A large number of youth clubs operated by UNRWA in the refugee camps were discovered to be meeting places for terrorists,” said the report.
Muhammad Ali Hassan, a Hamas terrorist arrested in February 2002, confessed he had carried out a sniper shooting from the school run by UNRWA in the al-Ayn refugee camp near Nablus, or biblical Shechem. He also reportedly told his interrogators that bombs intended for terrorist attacks were being manufactured inside the school’s facilities.
Nidal Abd al-Fattah Abdallah Nazzal, a Hamas activist from Kalkilya, was arrested in August 2002. He had been employed as an ambulance driver by UNRWA. He confessed during his interrogation that he had transported weapons and explosives in an UNRWA ambulance to terrorists.
Additional information about arrests of UNRWA employees by Israel came in 2003 from the U.S. General Accounting Office, which was charged with conducting an investigation of UNRWA operations. The office found that in three instances Israeli military courts convicted UNRWA employees of involvement with explosives.
More recently, in the time leading up to and since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in the summer of 2007, there has been concern in Jerusalem about UNRWA camps being used for the manufacture, storage, and launching of rockets and mortars into Israel. Also, camp residents have been suspected of active involvement in launching missiles and infiltrating shooters and suicide bombers into Israel.