Hamas Official: Protecting Civilians in Gaza Is Up to UN Refugee Agencies (Funded by the U.S.)

By Nayla Rush on November 1, 2023

Senior Hamas official, Mousa Abu Marzouk, said in an October 23 interview with Russia Today TV that the tunnels the terrorist organization has built in Gaza are meant to protect Hamas members from airstrikes, not civilians. He added that the responsibility to protect civilians in Gaza, who are, in his words, mostly “refugees”, lies with the United Nations. Unsaid in the interview is that the United States is the top funder of the two UN organizations that support refugees.

Here is the transcription of the entire clip (translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute):

Interviewer: Many people are asking, since you have built 500 km of tunnels, why haven’t you built bomb shelters where civilians can hide during bombardments?

Mousa Abu Marzouk (Hamas Political Bureau): We built the tunnels because we have no other way of protecting ourselves from being targeted and killed. These tunnels are meant to protect us [Hamas members] from the airplanes. We are fighting from inside the tunnels.  As for the Gaza strip, you know and everybody knows that 75% of the people in the Gaza strip are refugees. And refugees are the responsibility of the United Nations to protect them. According to the Geneva Convention, it is the responsibility of the occupation to provide them with all the services for as long as they are under occupation.

The United States is the top funder of the United Nations. Two UN entities in particular are dedicated to assisting refugees: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The United States is the number one donor of UNHCR and UNRWA.

While UNHCR assists any refugee, UNRWA targets only Palestinian refugees. Under the Trump administration, U.S. contributions to UNRWA decreased, first from nearly $360 million in 2017 to $65 million in 2018, then to zero in 2019 and 2020.

That decision was reversed by President Biden. In April 2021, Biden agreed to provide $235 million in aid to Palestinians (which included $150 million for UNRWA and $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza). On October 18, 2023, Biden announced that the United States is providing $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Below are the U.S. contributions to the two UN refugee organizations: UNHCR and UNRWA from FY 2014 to FY2021:

FY 2014
UNHCR: $1,276,124,999
UNRWA: $398,697,923

FY 2015
UNHCR: $1,336,571,686
UNRWA: $390,460,183

FY 2016
UNHCR: $1,508,067,996
UNRWA: $359,498,574

FY 2017
UNHCR: $1,466,770,354
UNRWA: $359,265,585

FY 2018
UNHCR: $1,587,201,346
UNRWA: $65,000,000

FY 2019
UNHCR: $1,679,675,053

FY 2020
UNHCR: $1,971,070,878

FY 2021
UNHCR: $1,918,004,682.00
UNRWA: $318,400,000.00

Topics: Refugees