U.S. will 'cut all funds to United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees'

Trump Admin Ending UN Aid To Palestinian Refugees

The State Department announces, the Trump administration is officially cutting off funds to a United Nations program, that doles out aid to Palestinian refugees.

Prior to the revelations regarding the Trump administrations imminent defunding of UNRWA, the US State Department announced it would "redirect" more than $200 million already appropriated for the Palestinians.

The agency supports some five million registered Palestinian refugees and provides schooling for 526,000 children in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

UNRWA has faced a cash crisis since the United States, long its biggest donor, earlier this year slashed funding, saying the agency needed to make unspecified reforms and calling on the Palestinians to renew peace talks with Israel.

The United States paid out $60 million to UNRWA in January but withheld another $65 million pending a review.

The administration reportedly plans to call for a narrowing of the definition of "refugee", which would vastly shrink the number of Palestinians eligible for aid from 5 million to a tiny fraction of that.

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"By endorsing the most extreme Israeli narrative on all issues including the rights of more than five million Palestinian refugees, the USA administration has lost its status as peacemaker and is damaging not only an already volatile situation but the prospects for future peace", Zomlot said in a statement to AFP.

Washington has always been the UN Relief and Works Agency's (UNRWA) largest donor but is "no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

In Gaza, the Islamist group Hamas condemned the U.S move as a "grave escalation against the Palestinian people".

UNRWA was set up in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war to deal with displaced Palestinians, but is a frequent target of Israel, which claims it perpetuates a "right of return" that Israel rejects.

In a letter to European Union foreign ministers, the German FM said his country has already offered $94 million to the UN's aid agency this year and will increase its contribution in the future, but the additional amount won't be enough to compensate for the deficit. Palestinian leaders have cut contact with the USA since the Trump administration backed Israel's claim of Jerusalem as its capital. "The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction", Maas said. However, a State Department spokesperson told FP that "US policy regarding UNRWA has been under frequent evaluation and internal discussion". The US has remained UNRWA's major benefactor and an end to American support for the agency could prove fatal.

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