Aid groups slam U.S. for withholding $65m funds to Palestinian refugees

Leading international humanitarian aid organisations slammed a U.S. decision to withhold $65 million funds to the UN refugee agency responsible for Palestinians and called on the U.S. to reverse the decision.

In a letter sent on Thursday to the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and three other officials, 21 aid groups said that “these cuts, if maintained, will have dire consequences.”

“We are particularly alarmed that this decision impacting humanitarian aid to civilians is not based on any assessment of need, rather designed both to punish Palestinian political leaders and force political concessions from them.

“This is simply unacceptable as a rationale for denying civilians humanitarian assistance, and a dangerous and striking departure from U.S. policy on international humanitarian assistance,” the aid groups said.

The U.S. was the largest single donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), contributing more than 350 million dollars to the agency in 2017.

Earlier this month the U.S. earmarked 60 million dollars for the agency for 2018, saying that 65 million dollars were withheld for “future consideration.”

UNRWA, which supports some five million Palestinians in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, has launched a global funding campaign in wake of the funding cuts.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, no fewer than 700,000 Palestinians were displaced or forced to flee.