Hamas ‘happy’ with Obama’s $900 million pledge

By Aaron Klein

Fawzi Barhoum

TEL AVIV, Israel – Hamas is “very happy” with a pledge this week from the Obama administration to provide $900 million in aid for rebuilding the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a spokesman from the Islamist organization told WND.

“We are very happy with this decision,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, speaking by cell phone from Gaza. “In the first place, this money will go toward reconstructing efforts.”

Barhoum said he expects the money to be tightly controlled. He said the funds are likely to be delineated to the Palestinian Authority and to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, or UNWRA, which administers aid to millions of Palestinian “refugees” in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Hamas has a close relationship with UNWRA; the agency openly employs a large number of Hamas members, including some of the group’s most senior terrorists.

The U.S. aid has not yet been officially approved by Congress. The package is expected to be formally announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she attends an international Gaza donors conference in Egypt next week. A U.S. official reported the money will not reach Hamas but will go instead to nongovernmental organizations, most notably UNWRA. Still, the terrorist organization controls the Gaza Strip. Any reconstruction efforts in the territory are likely to bolster Hamas.

Hamas, UNWRA closely linked

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.