US official: Gaza aid funds won’t reach Hamas

Written by on July 6, 2021

WASHINGTON – The US will provide assistance to Gaza “through trusted, vetted, independent partners who distribute directly to the people in need, not through Hamas,” the acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs vowed on Tuesday.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Wilson Center, Joey Hood said the US is working through various regional actors to ensure funding goes to Gaza through transparent, legitimate channels. 

“If you’ve ever seen the vetting procedures that we and our partners put in place, it’s like a 60-page memo that I got to sign off on every year. Let me tell you, folks, it is intensive,” he said. “Through all of that, we’re providing more than $360 million in assistance to the Palestinians. That includes $38m. in new assistance for humanitarian efforts in both Gaza and the West Bank. We’re working with Congress to ensure these resources are available as soon as possible.”

According to Hood, that assistance is going to provide emergency shelter, food relief, health care and mental health care.

Speaking about the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, Hood said it mostly held, “but everybody who watches the region knows the situation remains really fragile.”

“Palestinian militants are launching incendiary balloons and airborne explosive devices from the Gaza Strip. Israel is responding with airstrikes against Hamas sites,” he noted.

“Fortunately, no one on either side has been injured so far, but if this continues, it’s just a matter of time. We want to reduce the likelihood that this level of conflict happens again. So that’s why we think it’s essential to stabilize Gaza through a humanitarian response with partners from the United Nations, Egypt, Qatar and others. We’re committed to working with all of them to provide that assistance for recovery efforts. We’re going to support that recovery in partnership with Israel and the Palestinian Authority in a way that benefits Palestinians directly but does not benefit Hamas.

“When you look at this unconditional mutual ceasefire, between Israel and the militants based in Gaza, we think it was a function of the intensive but quiet diplomacy of the United States and our partners since the earliest hours of the conflict,” he continued. “We’re grateful to our regional partners, especially [Egyptian] President [Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi and the senior Egyptian officials who played a critical role in all of this. But again, a quiet one. The king of Jordan, the emir of Qatar, also played important roles throughout those 11 days.

“From the beginning, President [Joe] Biden was focused, intensely, on ending the conflict as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible. Because sadly, we know from past experience that every day the conflict continues, more innocent lives would be lost. And we deplore each one of those innocent deaths.

“Our partners know very well how active we are being on this, but again, it’s quiet,” said Hood. “And this is something new for the US government, not just going back from the past administration, but several administrations prior to that. The typical approach for the past 20 something years has been, ‘let’s go for a Nobel Peace Prize, let’s try to get everything solved,’ and it just hasn’t worked. So what this administration is trying to do is to see – can we just make lives better for people? Can we just stop the dying and then make lives better for people, whether they’re Israeli or Palestinians? That’s going to take a lot of work all on its own.”

MEANWHILE, a group of House members arrived in Israel for a bipartisan congressional delegation to the Middle East. Congress members joining Rep. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on the delegation are reps. Ted Deutch, David Cicilline, Andy Barr, Abigail Spanberger, Sara Jacobs, Kathy Manning, Nicole Malliotakis and Brad Schneider. 

“Today, a congressional delegation will be traveling to the Middle East to bolster diplomatic relationships with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as conduct oversight of US programming in the region,” Meeks said. “The trip will allow members to explore the challenges posed by the recent outbreak of violence in Gaza; assess Israel’s current security needs; and evaluate the Biden administration’s attempts to restart assistance to the Palestinian people. The [delegation] hopes to familiarize itself with the new Israeli government and engage with local partners on the ground who are working to improve the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis.”

He went on to say that the delegation will then travel to Qatar “to address issues of mutual concern between the United States and Qatar, including regional security threats, economic interests, and the important normalization agreements between Arab governments and Israel. The delegation will visit with CENTCOM forces to assess the Iranian threat, our regional security posture and spend time with our deployed military personnel.

“The COVID-19 pandemic remains a concern of the delegation and precautions will be taken to protect participants and our hosts. The status of COVID response in Israel, Qatar and the region will be addressed,” Meeks’s statement read.

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