US Withholds $65 Million from UNRWA

Palestinians protest, calling for better living conditions, outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Palestinians protest, calling for better living conditions, outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
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US Withholds $65 Million from UNRWA

Palestinians protest, calling for better living conditions, outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Palestinians protest, calling for better living conditions, outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

The United States held back $65 million that had been destined for the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) on Tuesday, two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened future payments.

The State Department said $60 million of what had been a planned $125 million package would go through to keep the agency running, but the rest will be withheld for now.

"This is not aimed at punishing anyone," spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

"The United States government, and the Trump administration, believe that there should be more so-called burden-sharing to go around," she said.

"We would like other countries, in fact other countries that criticize the United States for what they believe to be our position vis-a-vis the Palestinians... to step forward."

The head of UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, expressed alarm and immediately called on other UN members to contribute.

He said the $60 million would keep schools and hospitals open for now, but noted that it was dramatically lower than the $350 million Washington paid over the course of 2017.  

"Funding UNRWA or any humanitarian agency is the discretion of any sovereign member state of the United Nations," he said, in a statement.

"At the same time, given the long, trusted, and historic relationship between the United States and UNRWA, this reduced contribution threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle East."

Palestine Liberation Organization official Wasel Abu Youssef also immediately criticized the move, casting it as a deliberate US effort to deny the Palestinians their rights and linking it to Trump's widely criticized Dec. 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The State Department's position raised skepticism in the light of a tweet sent by Trump on January 2, at the time when the $125 million contribution had been due to be paid.
"We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect," Trump wrote.

"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel," he protested, adding: "Why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"



Hamas’ Armed Wing Says Israeli Airstrike Killed Two Hostages in Rafah

12 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Tents for displaced Palestinians at al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. (Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
12 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Tents for displaced Palestinians at al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. (Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
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Hamas’ Armed Wing Says Israeli Airstrike Killed Two Hostages in Rafah

12 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Tents for displaced Palestinians at al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. (Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
12 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Tents for displaced Palestinians at al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. (Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)

Hamas' armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government "does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins," the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza's al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas fighters stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israel says its campaign is intended to eliminate Hamas as a threat and free the remaining hostages.