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The United States suspends all funds to the UN agency to help the Palestinians

The United States suspends all funds to the UN agency to help the Palestinians

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States stopped all funds on Friday for a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees in an action that is likely to increase tensions between the Palestinians and the Trump administration. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the decision as “a flagrant assault on the Palestinian people and a challenge to UN resolutions.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the business model and fiscal practices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) were an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

“The administration has carefully reviewed the problem and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA,” it said in a statement.

Nauert said that the “community of graduated beneficiaries that expands in an endless and exponential way is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.”

UNRWA says it serves some 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of people who fled Palestine in the 1948 war that led to the creation of the state of Israel. US President Donald Trump and his aides say they want to improve the situation of the Palestinians, as well as start negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

But under Trump, Washington has taken a series of actions that have alienated the Palestinians, including the recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

That movement, a reversal of US policy for a long time, led Palestinian leaders to boycott Washington’s peace efforts. The United States paid $ 60 million to UNRWA in January but retained another $ 65 million pending a review. “Such punishment will not succeed in changing the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not part of the solution,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters.

He said that “neither the United States nor anyone will be able to dissolve” UNRWA. In Gaza, the Islamist group Hamas also condemned the US movement. as a “serious escalation against the Palestinian people”.

“The US decision aims to eliminate the right of return and it is a serious escalation of the United States against the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. Abu Zuhri told Reuters that “the leadership of the United States has become an enemy of our people and our nation and we will not surrender to such unjust decisions.”

Earlier on Friday, German Chancellor Heiko Maas said Germany would increase its contributions to UNRWA because the funding crisis was fueling uncertainty. “The loss of this organization could trigger an uncontrollable chain reaction,” Maas said.

UNRWA has faced a cash crisis since the United States, its main donor, cut funds earlier this year, saying the agency needed to make unspecified reforms and calling on the Palestinians to resume peace talks with Israel. The last peace talks collapsed in 2014, in part due to Israel’s opposition to an attempt at a unity pact between Fatah and the Palestinian factions of Hamas and the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state, including other factors.

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