Gaza Government: No Crisis with NGOs

The minister of foreign affairs and planning in Gaza, Mohammad Awad, denied Friday the existence of a crisis with NGOs and assistance agencies like USAID.

Awad told Ma’an the government in Gaza remained committed to working with NGOs in order to "clarify the goals of these organizations to ensure projects are carried out to serve the residents, most of which are humanitarian."

He added: "Among the mechanisms would be agreeing to have a legal auditor examine administrative and financial issues, and then present his report to the government in case of any malfunction or mismanagement."

"There is no crisis between the government and these organizations," he insisted.

Awad’s remarks came as a US official announced that USAID was halting humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip over alleged meddling by the Hamas-led government, which the US considers a terrorist group.

"We deeply regret that USAID-funded partner organizations operating in Gaza are forced by Hamas’s actions to suspend their assistance work," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"USAID assistance programs were put on hold effective August 12," he added.

"Hamas, through a series of measures it has imposed over the past months, has created an environment which jeopardises the ability of non-governmental organisations to provide assistance to Gaza’s most vulnerable residents," the official said.

He said all US partner organizations would suspend their activities funded by the United States until these are able "to operate without interference or harassment from Hamas."

But a spokesman in Gaza insisted Friday that the government should be able to verify the accounts of NGOs financed by the US Agency for International Development in the Palestinian territories.

"The minister of interior of the government of Hamas intends to exercise its legal rights in the surveillance of all institutions operating in Gaza," spokesman Taher al-Nunu said.

He complained that "USAID refuses to recognise the government in Gaza," adding that anyone who "wishes to work in Palestinian territory must obey its laws."

A different US official in Washington said he understood that authorities in Gaza have been demanding access to physically search files and records of NGOs, which would be unprecedented.

Reacting to the situation, the economy minister in Ramallah Hassan Abu Libdeh called on authorities in Gaza to "abstain from any action that threatens relations with the NGOs."

Saying the NGOs were dedicated to "rebuilding Gaza," Abu Libdeh told AFP that "any halt to their activities will have grave consequences.

A similar row was underway in Cairo where a notorious Egyptian intelligence apparatus is probing foreign funding of civil society groups sparking tensions between Washington and Egypt’s ruling generals, judicial sources said.

The State Security prosecution, which used to coordinate with the State Security Investigations apparatus that was disbanded for rights abuses, is investigating complaints that NGOs were receiving illegal funding from abroad.

The probe, which the sources said was focusing on US funding, came as Washington said it had raised concerns with the military about "anti-Americanism" in Egypt.

"USAID has contributed to Egyptian development needs for more than thirty years, and US taxpayers have over this time financed nearly $30 billion in assistance programmes," an embassy statement said.

"And yes, the United States has always included in its assistance programmes funding to strengthen and expand Egypt’s civil society, including those brave Egyptians struggling for democracy and human rights," it said.

The embassy said its aid funding complied with "the strictest standards of transparency and accountability" and did not fund political groups.

(Ma’an News)

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