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U.S. threatens to cut off Gaza aid

JTA

August 12, 2011 | 9:10 am

Gaza City (2007)

Gaza City (2007)

The U.S. State Department threatened to withdraw more than $100 million in aid to Gaza if Hamas leaders do not end demands to audit American charities working there.

The withdrawal, if enacted, would affect spending in Gaza on health care, agriculture and water infrastructure.

The State Department message, sent Thursday and reported by The New York Times, came after Hamas suspended operations of the International Medical Corps on Sunday for refusing to submit to an audit conducted by Hamas.

Hamas has increased surveillance over nongovernmental organizations for months now, causing rising tension. In June, Hamas demanded that groups allow its officials to audit their finances. United States policy, however, forbids direct contact between NGOs and groups labeled as terrorist by the State Department, as Hamas is, and would lead to an end to humanitarian aid.

In July, the Norweigan goverment sent Hamas a letter saying that if Hamas conducted an on-site audit, charities “might suspend their operations, which will affect significant parts of Gaza’s population.” It also said that Norway would hold Hamas responsible for aid withdrawal.

Taher al-Nounou, a spokesman for the Hamas goverment, rejected both warnings, saying: “These organizations do not recognize and do not want to recognize the Palestinian law. We do not kneel down to any threat. Any organization that wants to operate in the Palestinian territories must respect the laws.”

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