USAID Ceases Assistance in West Bank and Gaza (VIDEO)

USAID ceased assistance in West Bank and Gaza. (Photo: File)

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has ceased all assistance to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, according to a US official.

The decision announced on Friday was linked to a January 31 deadline set by new US legislation under which foreign aid recipients would be more exposed to anti-terrorism lawsuits.

The deadline also sees the end of about $60m in US aid for the Palestinian security forces, whose cooperation with Israeli forces helps maintain relative quiet in the West Bank.

Congress’s Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) empowers Americans to sue foreign aid recipients in US courts over alleged complicity in “acts of war”.

The Palestinian Authority declined further US funding over worries about its potential legal exposure, although it denies Israeli accusations that it encourages armed attacks.

A US official told Reuters on Friday:

“At the request of the Palestinian Authority, we have wound down certain projects and programs funded with assistance under the authorities specified in ATCA in the West Bank and Gaza … All USAID assistance in the West Bank and Gaza has ceased.”

It was unclear how long the cessation would be in effect.

The official said no steps were currently being taken to close the USAID mission in the Palestinian territories, and no decision had been made about future staffing at the USAID mission in the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

USAID is the main agency administering US foreign assistance in the Palestinian territories.

According to its website, the agency spent $268m on public projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as Palestinian private sector debt repayment in 2017, but there were significant cuts to all new funding through the end of June 2018.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan condemned the stopping of aid, deploring what he called “politicized money”.

The USAID announcement comes after humanitarian officials in the West Bank and Gaza said they were facing a general cutback in funding from donors worldwide.

Last year, Washington cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinians, which included funding to humanitarian groups supported by USAID.

The US cuts were widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to resume peace talks with Israel and to engage with the Trump administration in the run-up to its long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

As a result, dozens of NGO employees have been laid off, health and unemployment programmes have been shut down, and infrastructure projects halted.

In August, Washington announced an end to all US funding for the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees. The agency received $364m from the US in 2017.

In January, the World Food Programme cut food aid to about tens of thousands of Palestinians due to a shortage of funds.

Diplomatic sources said Palestinian, US, and Israeli officials were trying to find ways to keep the money flowing to Abbas’s security forces.

(AJE, PC, Social Media)

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