RELEASE: Gottheimer, Hill Lead Bipartisan Letter of 51 Members

May 16, 2024
Press

Urges Treasury and State Departments to Designate and Sanction UNRWA Employees Involved in the October 7 Terrorist Attacks

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Thursday, May 16, 2024, U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and French Hill (AR-2) led a letter signed by a group of 51 bipartisan Members of Congress to Treasury and State Departments to take action against the twelve employees recently terminated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for their actions related to the October 7 terrorist attacks.

Intelligence reports showed that at least twelve employees of UNRWA had connections to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and about ten percent of all of the agency’s Gaza staff have ties to Islamist militant groups. The letter urges the State and Treasury Departments to designate the employees as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT).

The signatory list of 51 bipartisan Members of Congress includes Representatives Gottheimer (NJ-5), Hill (AR-2), Alford (MO-4), Bacon (NE-2), Baird (IN-4), Costa (CA-21), Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Cuellar (TX-28), Davis (NC-1), D’Esposito (NY-4), Fleischmann (TN-3), Flood (NE-1), Frankel (FL-22), Gooden (TX-5), Huizenga (MI-4), Kean (NJ-7), Kim (CA-40), LaLota (NY-1), Landsman (OH-1), Lawler (NY-17), Lee (NV-3), Lucas (OK-3), Manning (NC-6), Mast (FL-21), Meng (NY-6), Meuser (PA-9), Miller-Meeks (IA-1), Molinaro (NY-19), Moskowitz (FL-23), Nickel (NC-13), Norcross (NJ-1), Nunn (IA-3), Pallone (NJ-6), Panetta (CA-19), Posey (FL-8), Schneider (IL-10), Self (TX-3), Sherman (CA-32), Soto (FL-9), Stanton (AZ-4), Steube (FL-17), Stevens (MI-11), Suozzi (NY-3) Tenney (NY-24), Titus (NV-1), Torres (NY-15), Veasey (TX-33), Wagner (MO-2), Waltz (FL-6),Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), and Wilson (SC-2).

In January, Gottheimer led a bipartisan letter urging the State Department to call for the resignation of United Nations and UNRWA officials for their failure to fully investigate UNRWA employees’ involvement in the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, in which Hamas terrorists murdered, decapitated, burned alive, and raped more than 1,200 innocent men, women, and children — including 40 Americans.

In February, Gottheimer asked Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen to freeze the assets of UNRWA employees who support Hamas. This letter follows up on that earlier request.

“We write with great concern that the United States has yet to take action against the twelve employees recently terminated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for their actions related to the October 7 terrorist attacks,” wrote thirty-two bipartisan members of Congress in a letter to the Treasury and State Departments. “Following Hamas’s October 7 terror attacks against Israel, reports and images quickly revealed the overlap between UNRWA and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.”

The members continued, “According to official designation criteria, any individual or entity that assists in, sponsors, or provides financial, material, or technological support for terrorist groups can be designated as an SDGT. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that at least twelve UNRWA employees took part in the massacre that Hamas perpetrated against innocent civilians in Israel. According to the report, an UNRWA school social worker brought the body of a dead Israeli soldier back into the Gaza Strip, and helped coordinate ammunition and vehicle distribution before and during the attack. Another UNRWA employee was connected to the massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where ninety-seven people were burned and butchered, and dozens kidnapped. Hamas has built tunnels under UNRWA buildings, including a large data center right under the UNRWA Gaza headquarters.”

The letter has already received support from FDD Action.

“FDD Action strongly supports efforts to hold accountable UNRWA employees who participated in the barbaric acts of October 7,” wrote FDD Action. “There is clear evidence that UNRWA employees materially assisted Hamas in the repugnant October 7 massacre of Israelis, 31 Americans and 40 additional foreign nationals. These individuals should be designated under U.S. legal authorities. This would send a clear message not only to the individuals in question but to the organizations to which they belong that are recipients of U.S. taxpayer dollars that there are consequences for violating our laws.”

Full text of the letter sent to Treasury and State Departments can be found hereand below:

May 16, 2024

The Honorable Janet Yellen                             

Secretary

Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20220

The Honorable Antony Blinken                             

Secretary

Department of State

2201 C St., NW

Washington, DC 20520  

Dear Secretary Yellen and Secretary Blinken:

We write with great concern that the United States has yet to take action against the twelve employees recently terminated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for their actions related to the October 7 terrorist attacks. We ask that both of your agencies designate as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), and impose sanctions and other penalties on these twelve employees, and all additional UNRWA employees, who took part in the October 7 terrorist attacks.

Following Hamas’s October 7 terror attacks against Israel, reports and images quickly revealed the overlap between UNRWA and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA resources, including vehicles, were used to help Hamas and other terrorist groups commit heinous war crimes. While we have known that UNRWA textbooks spew extremism, radicalizing future generations of Palestinian children against the State of Israel, there is now clear evidence that UNRWA employees participated in the murder, mutilation, burning and other heinous atrocities that took place on October 7. In a House Financial Services Committee hearing on February 6, 2024, Secretary Yellen was asked if the Treasury Department would take steps to sanction these employees. More than a month later, no progress has been reported, despite Secretary Yellen’s commitment to look into this matter.

According to official designation criteria, any individual or entity that assists in, sponsors, or provides financial, material, or technological support for terrorist groups can be designated as an SDGT. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that at least twelve UNRWA employees took part in the massacre that Hamas perpetrated against innocent civilians in Israel. According to the report, an UNRWA school social worker brought the body of a dead Israeli soldier back into the Gaza Strip, and helped coordinate ammunition and vehicle distribution before and during the attack. Another UNRWA employee was connected to the massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where ninety-seven people were burned and butchered, and dozens kidnapped. Hamas has built tunnels under UNRWA buildings, including a large data center right under the UNRWA Gaza headquarters. Since this investigation, the U.S. and at least eight other countries suspended their funding to UNRWA. Additionally, new reports presented to the United Nations reveal that UNRWA has employed more than 450 individuals in Gaza that are military operatives for Hamas and other terrorist factions. 

The evidence presented strongly suggests that these individuals meet the criteria to be designated as SDGTs by the Department of the Treasury and Department of State, and they meet the criteria for sanctions because of providing support to Hamas, which is designated as both a SDGT and a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

Please respond within thirty days confirming that these twelve individuals, and any other UNRWA employees identified as having participated in the October 7 attack, meet the criteria for designation as a SDGT, and resulting sanctions, or criminal penalties for providing support to an SDGT or FTO. Further, we ask you to please share the Departments’ strategy to ensure U.S. funds do not support terrorism within thirty days of receiving this letter. We hope this strategy will also address the following questions:

  • Are your Departments considering designating UNRWA employees that have been found to have materially supported Hamas or engaged in terror activities, as SDGTs?
  • What measures are your Departments taking to ensure that there is stricter oversight on all U.S. funds going to international organizations?
  • What safeguards are being implemented to automatically cut off all funding if any employee of an organization receiving U.S. funds is discovered to have employees affiliated with Foreign Terrorist Organizations?

While we agree that any individual found to have participated in the attacks should be terminated from their employment with UNRWA, the accusations and evidence in the public domain require a stronger response, including the designation of individuals for materially supporting terrorism. We cannot allow these terrorists who masquerade as UNRWA humanitarian aid workers to go unpunished. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

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