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US cuts off $200 million in aid to Palestinians

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

The Palestinian Authority has claimed its people are victims of “collective punishment” after accusing the United States of blocking $200 million in aid in response to President Mahmoud Abbas’s application for UN statehood.

The freeze on funds, which has been unpublicised, was reportedly put in place in August, ahead of Mr Abbas’s planned bid at the UN on September 20. The funds were said to have been allocated earlier in the financial year which ends today.

“It is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution,” Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib told The Independent.

He told the newspaper: “It is ironic to be punished for going to the United Nations”.

The Obama administration is reportedly negotiating with Congressional leaders over unlocking the aid. The White House has reportedly also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to help keep aid flowing to the Palestinians.

The Congressional threat to cut off aid has previously been dismissed as political grandstanding.

“Everybody knows the US Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world,” former president Bill Clinton told ABC News recently. “They don’t have to demonstrate that.”

USAID has already begun to wind down aid operations in the West Bank and Gaza, and Western aid sources fear the agency could have to shut down all humanitarian work as well as distribution of budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority by January.

There are fears that any major cut off in aid could prompt a crisis in the Palestinian Security Forces, who have kept the peace in the West Bank for many years, rounding up Hamas militants and others considered undesirable.

“Security co-operation with the Palestinians is excellent at the moment and we do not want to jeopardise that,” a senior official close to the Israeli armed forces said.


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