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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Qatar ‘thanks’ Biden for resuming US aid to Palestine

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The Biden administration donated $15 million in aid to Palestinians last month as a move towards the resumption of aid to the occupied lands.

Qatar welcomed the return of US humanitarian assistance to Palestine, three years after it was first cut by former President Donald Trump.

Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani held a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and thanks Washington “for resuming economic, development, and humanitarian assistance to the brotherly Palestinian people”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

That came after the Biden administration announced on April 7th its plans to restore aid to Palestinians as well as its funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA].

Trump halted humanitarian services to the agency, describing it as an “irredeemably flawed operation”.

In a statement, the US Department of State said: “This includes $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $10 million for peace building programs through the US Agency for International Development [USAID], and $150 million in humanitarian assistance for the UNRWA”.

Read also: Biden’s resumption of Palestine aid and reversal of Trump policies

The aid provides support for households in need of daily essentials, such as food and clean water, while also providing assistance for Palestinian civil society.

“A portion of this funding will support the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, as it continues to provide necessary and life-saving treatments to Palestinians. This funding is in addition to the $15 million in humanitarian assistance to address the COVID-19 pandemic and food insecurity the United States announced in March,” said the statement.

The resumption of support to UNRWA entails providing education for over 500,000 Palestinians. It also serves to help the organisation provide services to at least 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“There were a number of countries that had greatly reduced to halted contributions to UNRWA. We hope that the American decision will lead others to rejoin … as UNRWA donors,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, welcoming the US announcement.

While the latest move supports UNRWA’s services, the money will not provide the organisation with the same level of support pre 2017, when donations amounted to $365 million.

The former Trump administration also stopped humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority [PA] in 2018 and shut the Palestinian delegation’s office in Washington.

It withheld $65 million from the annual aid total of $365 million, leaving the organisation unable to provide adequate support to Palestinians in need, nor pay its 13,000 staff members.

This left UNRWA struggling to survive, especially since facing gradual funding cuts.

At the time, the organisation called for international intervention to help cover its budget. Qatar, together with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and several others heeded those calls and provided more than $200 million in funding.

Meanwhile in Qatar, the Gulf state began disbursing cash assistance on Sunday to 100,000 families in the Gaza Strip, providing each with $100.


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