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US Freezes Funding for Palestinian Relief Efforts - State Department

© AP Photo / UNRWAPalestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), residents of the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, queue to receive food supplies (File)
Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), residents of the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, queue to receive food supplies (File) - Sputnik International
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States will withhold more than $60 million in aid to the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a briefing on Tuesday.

"$65 million, that is money that will be held for future consideration," Nauert said regarding UNRWA funding. "It’s money that’s being frozen at this time, it’s not being cancelled."

The United States has committed a voluntary contribution of $60 million for 2018 to sustain schools and health services, Nauert said.

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The decision by the United States is not a form of punishment, however, it would like to see changes made on how the relief agency operates, the spokeswoman added. Nauert also said Washington would like to see governments, especially those that criticized the United States for its decision on Jerusalem, to do more pertaining to UNRWA.

UNWRA is funded by voluntary contributions from the UN Member States and Washington is its largest single donor of financial aid. According to UNWRA data, Washington pledged $368 million in 2016, the second largest donor was the European Union with $159 million, while Saudi Arabia contributed $148 million.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump in a series of tweets cast doubt on the efficacy of the aid and blamed the Palestinians for the halt in talks with Israel.

Trump’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel triggered violent backlash across the Middle East including protests in the Gaza Strip and West Bank which left several dead and nearly 700 injured.

Israeli UN Envoy Welcomes US Decision to Freeze Funding for Palestine

Meanwhile, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon welcomed the decision of the United States to withhold $65 million in aid to the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

"UNRWA has proven time and again to be an agency that misuses the humanitarian aid of the international community and instead supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate," Danon said Tuesday, as quoted by the CNN broadcaster.

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According to the Israeli diplomat, the officials of the UN agency are part of the leadership of the Hamas group and the funds should be allocated for the real improvement of the refugees' wealth.

On Saturday, the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization urged Islamic countries to provide funding for its structures amid threats of the United States to cut off its aid.

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