Warnings raised as US cuts aid to Palestinians
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees yesterday warned that it faced its worst funding crisis ever after the White House froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions, a move Palestinian leaders decried as cruel and blatantly biased.
The agency provides Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East with services including schools and medical care, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long accused it of hostility toward Israel and called for its closure.
Some five million Palestinians are eligible for its services.On Jan. 16, the United States held back $65 million that had been destined for the agency, two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened future payments.
The United States is the largest contributor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA).“The U.S. has announced it will contribute $60 million to the programme budget. There is for the moment no other indication of possible funding,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told AFP.
“This dramatically reduced contribution results in the most severe funding crisis in the history of the agency.”
Senior Palestinian officials reacted with outrage to what they see as another move against them by Trump’s White House following his declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the freeze amounted to “cruelty” toward an “innocent and vulnerable population.”
The Palestinian envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, said: “Palestinian refugees and children’s access to basic humanitarian services, such as food, health care and education, is not a bargaining chip but a US and international obligation.”
Palestinian officials also accused Trump of chipping away at issues long considered up for negotiation as part of a comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.