House Measure Would Bar Biden Admin From Funding Gaza Reconstruction

Bill comes amid fears taxpayer cash will help Hamas rebuild terror tunnels

(Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)
April 18, 2024

A measure circulating in the Republican-controlled House would block the Biden administration from spending taxpayer cash to rebuild the war-torn Gaza Strip amid mounting concerns this cash will empower Hamas to reestablish its network of tunnels beneath the territory.

The measure is set to be introduced on Thursday by Rep. Brian Mast (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and will be offered as an amendment to the foreign supplemental funding bill currently working its way through Congress, sources told the Washington Free Beacon. The funding bill includes emergency aid for Israel and Ukraine, and is a must-pass piece of legislation for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.).

Mast’s measure, a copy of which was obtained by the Free Beacon, would ensure that "[n]o federal funds are authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available to build or rebuild the Gaza strip." It comes as the Biden administration pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into Gaza-based humanitarian projects, including a massive pier off the territory’s coast that the U.S. military is using to funnel aid to the Palestinian people.

Mast’s amendment comes amid mounting concerns that U.S. aid dollars and humanitarian goods are bolstering Hamas as Israel’s military is on the cusp of eradicating the Iran-backed terror group. The lawmaker, like many Republicans, is worried that American aid will help Hamas reestablish its network of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip that were used to infiltrate Israel on Oct. 7 and carry out the worst terror attack in the country’s history.

"Our priority should be supporting our ally Israel as it faces unprecedented attacks by Iran and works to free the 133 hostages still held by Hamas," Mast said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. "Not one penny of American tax dollars should be used to fund hare-brained infrastructure schemes by Joe Biden and Antony Blinken that will only be used as staging grounds by Hamas for attacks on Israel."

The Gaza reconstruction effort is estimated to cost somewhere around $20 billion, and the Biden administration has pledged to be a key source of revenue for these projects.

Without proper oversight—an issue that has plagued U.S. humanitarian efforts in Gaza—Hamas is likely to exploit international reconstruction efforts to reestablish its more than 400-mile-long network of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip.

The underground network is routed beneath hospitals, schools, and mosques. Israel has destroyed key portions of this network during its defensive operations in Gaza and has expressed concern the terror group will aim to rebuild these tunnels in preparation for future terror attacks.

One portion of the tunnel system ran beneath the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) Gaza headquarters. The aid organization has been in the spotlight since it became clear that a number of its employees participated Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The Israeli government estimates that around 10 percent of UNRWA’s workforce has ties to Hamas. This led the United States to pause its multimillion-dollar funding to UNRWA, but the Biden administration continues to coordinate with the group and advocate for it to play a central role in the reconstruction of Gaza, the Free Beacon reported in March.

The State Department has long been concerned that American aid into Gaza bolsters Hamas.

When the Biden administration restarted humanitarian projects in 2021, following a complete pause by the Trump administration, State Department officials warned in internal correspondence that American aid could enrich Hamas.

"We assess there is a high risk Hamas could potentially derive indirect, unintentional benefit from U.S. assistance to Gaza. There is less but still some risk U.S. assistance would benefit other designated groups," the State Department said at the time.

The administration moved forward with its plans, and was funding Gaza projects, as well as UNRWA, in the lead up to Oct. 7.