The Hamas terrorist group is extremely concerned by the possibility that the UNRWA organization will suffer economically from the US administration’s reassessment regarding its ties with the organization, which purportedly deals with Palestinian refugee issues.
The Hamas concerns stems from reports that during his recent visit to the US, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman requested Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reassess US economic support for UNWRA. Liberman claimed that the organization does not maintain its mission and functions as an economic arm of the Hamas movement.
Liberman asked Tillerson to establish parameters and determine according to those parameters whether the organization is maintaining its goals or whether its goal is to strengthen Hamas terror in the Gaza strip.
In response to the reports, the Hamas journal Al-Rassala published an interview with Issam Adwan, director of the Refugee Affairs division in Hamas, in which he attacked the Israeli request and threatened serious ramifications if UNRWA funding is stopped. The interview was translated and distributed by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Adwan said that if UNRWA funding is stopped, it would have a deleterious effect on services provided to Arab refugees and would “cause millions of refugees to demand their rights, leading to renewed instability in the region.”
The US, Adwan added, has no authority, in his opinion, to stop funding the UNRWA, whose mandate is from the UN and not from the US or Israel. He claimed that the US ought to increase assistance to UNRWA rather than cutting it as Israel has requested. He also called on UNRWA not to give in to pressure and to continue its humanitarian work.
Adwan also referred to Israeli claims of connections between UNRWA workers and Hamas. He said that the UNRWA workers have a right “to be involved in politics”, that is, to belong to Hamas. He represented the affiliation with Hamas [a terrorist organization] as “political activity” and said it was unthinkable that a Palestinian Arab would give up his struggle for advancing the Palestinian cause because of his job at UNRWA. He denied Hamas had plans to infiltrate the international institutions operating in the Gaza Strip. However, he emphasized that UNRWA could not fire employees affiliated with Hamas unless it classified them [on the basis of discrimination], which could not be implemented.