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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

US cuts aid to Palestinians by more than $200m

The move comes as UNRWA head suggests the US slashed budget this year to punish Palestinians

A wounded Palestinian boy is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland at the border fence between Israel and Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A wounded Palestinian boy is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland at the border fence between Israel and Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The United States has decided to cut more than $200 million (Dh734m) in assistance to the Palestinians, after a review of funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza, according to US officials.

The State Department notified Congress of the decision on Friday, according to the officials.

In a three-paragraph notice sent to politicians and obtained by the Associated Press, the department said it would redirect the money to "high-priority projects elsewhere". The move comes as President Donald Trump and his senior Middle East representatives, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, prepare a much-heralded but opaque peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

"At the direction of President Trump, we have undertaken a review of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer," the State Department said.

"As a result of that review, at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million ... originally planned for programmes in the West Bank and Gaza," it said.

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"This decision takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza's citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation," the notice said.

The notice did not give an exact amount of the funds to be cut, but states it is more than $200 million that was approved last year. The US had planned to give the Palestinians $251m for good governance, health, education and funding for civil society in the current budget year that ends on September 30. But with just more than a month to go before that money must be used, reprogrammed to other areas or returned to Treasury, less than half of it has been spent.