U.S. Congress inflicting ‘collective punishment’ on Palestinians

The Independent reports:

The Palestinian leadership yesterday accused the US Congress of inflicting “collective punishment” upon its people by holding up almost $200m in aid earmarked for the West Bank and Gaza by the Obama administration.

The freeze on funds earlier allocated for the financial year which ends today is the first concrete Congressional reprisal against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come to light since he angered US legislators by pursuing his application for full UN membership last week.

The unpublicised block has been in force since August and was imposed in response to the then planned UN recognition bid and to earlier – so far fruitless – efforts to effect reconciliation between Mr Abbas’s own Fatah faction and Hamas.

USAID has been unable to allocate the funds, designated for a wide range of humanitarian, educational and state capacity building projects, pending negotiations between the US government and Congressional leaders aimed at lifting the freeze. Ghassan Khatib, chief spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said yesterday: “This is not constructive at all. Such moves are unjustified. These are mainly humanitarian and development projects-it is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution.”

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