State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf defended a United Nations agency that was caught giving Hamas rockets back to the terror group on two separate occasions after they were discovered in the agency’s schools in Gaza.
The U.N.’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operates several schools in Gaza, admitted earlier this week that it had found Hamas rockets stored in two of its schools. On both occasions, UNRWA gave the rockets over to local authorities, who is most cases operate in tandem with Hamas.
The incident has drawn fierce backlash from international observers, though Foggy Bottom sought Tuesday to deflect blame from UNRWA.
Harf said that the U.S. is working to UNRWA to ensure that if more rockets are discovered, they are not given back to Hamas, a terror group.
"This wasn’t a good outcome," Harf said. "We certainly don’t think it was. But I would caution people from jumping to conclusions about, you know, what UNRWA was trying to do here. We’re working with them to try to do better in the future."
"So you don’t — you don’t believe that this amounts to aiding and abetting of" Hamas, a reporter asked.
"I would certainly not say that," Harf said.
UNRWA maintains that it handed the missiles over to "local authorities" in Gaza that were not affiliated with Hamas. However, this is unlikely since the terror group is in control of all forces in Gaza.
"We recognize that this was not an acceptable outcome, and we are consulting closely with U.N. leadership, with UNRWA, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to develop better options available in the event of future incidents," Harf said.
"Again, it’s important to remember that UNRWA is a humanitarian relief organization," she added, deflecting blame from UNRWA. "It’s not a peacekeeping mission equipped to deal with a kind of situation where you find rockets. That’s not their mandate. We also urge UNRWA to continue to be as transparent as possible about this issue. They will have more details on it, but that’s what I know as of right now."