US promises $400 mln in Palestinian aid despite UNRWA funds ban

AFP , Ahram Online , Tuesday 11 Jun 2024

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday announced $404 million in new US assistance for the Palestinians, even as the US maintains its ban on funding UNRWA, the largest aid organization for Palestinian refugees.

Children wait for food being distributed at a camp for internally displaced people where they live due to the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 11, 2024. AFP


The aid, announced at an emergency aid conference in Jordan, brings the total US contribution to Palestinians -- in Gaza, the West Bank and the region -- to $674 million since war broke out in October, according to the State Department.

But Blinken noted that a UN appeal for the Palestinians was only one-third funded, with a shortfall of some $2.3 billion.

"It is time for everyone -- everyone -- to step up. And for those who have already given and given generously, give more," Blinken told an emergency aid conference in Jordan.

The US aid assistance comes as Israel's war and man-made famine have killed at least 37,164 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the besieged territory's health ministry.

Blinken did not specify how the United States would deliver the assistance but Washington has focused on the World Food Programme and private aid groups.

The US Congress has banned further contributions to the main provider of assistance on the ground -- UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Baseless allegations

UNRWA was swept into controversy in January when Israel, without providing evidence, accused 12 of its 30,000 employees of being involved in the 7 October events.

Some 15 countries including the United States, Britain, Germany, and Japan suspended funding to UNRWA following the Israeli allegations.

The UN immediately fired the implicated staff members and launched an internal investigation to assess the agency's neutrality, led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

The audit published on 22 April, largely cleared the agency.

Although many countries have since resumed their donations, while others have not -- including the United States -- $267 million in funding remains suspended over the false allegations.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini has warned that Israel is waging a concerted campaign aimed at destroying the UN agency.

"Calls for UNRWA’s closure are not about adherence to humanitarian principles. These calls are about ending the refugee status of millions of Palestinians," Lazzarini told the UN Security Council in April.

"The agency exists because a political solution does not," UNRWA's director stressed in his statement.

Israel has been systematically targeting UNRWA for years, undermining its mission, calling for ending the definition of Palestinian refugees, and persistently rejecting their "right of return," which was backed by the UN in Resolution 194.

Created in 1949, the agency employs around 30,000 people in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

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