U.S. halts funding to U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees
The United States on Friday halted all funding to a U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees in a decision further heightening tensions between the Palestinian leadership and the Trump administration, Reuters reported.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the decision as “a flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of U.N. resolutions.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the business model and fiscal practices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) were an “irredeemably flawed operation.”
“The administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA,” she said in a statement.
Nauert said the agency’s “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.”
The latest announcement comes a week after the administration said it would redirect $200 million in Palestinian economic support funds for programs in the West Bank and Gaza.
UNRWA did not immediately comment on the U.S. decision.
The 68-year-old agency says it provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of people who were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his aides say they want to improve the Palestinians’ plight, as well as start negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
But under Trump, Washington has taken a number of actions that have alienated the Palestinians, including the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That move was a reversal of longtime U.S. policy and led Palestinian leadership to boycott the Washington peace efforts being led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law.
The United States paid out $60 million to UNRWA in January, withholding another $65 million, from a promised $365 million for the year.