McCaul demands UNRWA chief testify before Congress over alleged ties to Hamas

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The House Foreign Affairs Committee is demanding that the head of a global Palestinian refugee agency testify before Congress over the “many troubling allegations” leveled against it amid Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, sent a letter to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini insisting that he sit for a public hearing.

“I remain extremely concerned over UNRWA’s widespread allegations of corruption and the millions of taxpayer dollars already sent to UNRWA this fiscal year. A full accounting of UNRWA’s complicity in the October 7th attack – as with all instances of terrorism – is urgently needed,” McCaul told Fox News Digital.

He said his committee has already heard testimony “that directly contradicts UNRWA’s claims” and “it is now more important than ever that the American people hear directly from Mr. Lazzarini in a public setting.”

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul is demanding that the head of UNRWA testify in a public hearing.

Lazzarini had agreed to come before the committee in late January in a “closed, members-only setting,” according to the letter, citing “UN privileges and immunities” that prevented him from appearing in the open.

“With regard to your letter, we must first point out that UN privileges and immunities do not forbear voluntary testimony,” the lawmakers responded. “Second, many members of this Committee are gravely concerned, but sadly, unsurprised by allegations that employees of UNRWA participated in the horrendous October 7th attack and that thousands of employees have familial or direct ties to Hamas and other terrorist organizations.”

“Furthermore, we are outraged by recent reporting that a Hamas military installation and server room is located directly beneath UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters. To make matters worse, Hamas operated this installation by siphoning electricity from UNRWA.”

McCaul pointed out that Lazzarini had appeared before European lawmakers in 2021 and 2022 for “an Exchange of Views in the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET).”

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Philippe Lazzarini

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said he would brief lawmakers in a private setting, McCaul said

“If you are willing to appear before the AFET, you surely can and would be willing to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee especially given the United States’ long term and considerable financial support to UNRWA,” he said.

The letter is co-led by Reps. Brian Mast, R-Fla., Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., subcommittee chairs on Foreign Affairs.

The U.N. is conducting an internal, but independent investigation after Israel accused 12 UNRWA staffers of taking part in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack last year that killed more than 1,200 people – mostly civilians.

The Biden administration has paused funding for the agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees, after the allegations were leveled. The U.S. had designated $51 million toward UNRWA for fiscal year 2024.

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Last month, Lazzarini condemned Israel for allegedly striking an UNRWA facility in Gaza and killing nine people. Israel has denied responsibility for the attack.

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“The compound is a clearly marked UN facility & its coordinates were shared with Israeli Authorities as we do for all our facilities. Once again a blatant disregard of basic rules of war,” Lazzarini wrote on X.

Fox News Digital reached out to UNRWA for comment on the letter but did not immediately hear back.

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