US/World News

Netherlands, Belgium pledge new funds to UN Palestinian relief agency

(JTA) – The Netherlands and Belgium pledged a total of $38 million for the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinians following U.S. funding cuts of $110 million. Belgium’s government pledged $23.3 million in extra funding for UNRWA and the Dutch government said it would fast-track another $15 million in funding.

The United States announced its cuts on Jan. 18. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that a $45 million payment pledged for the UNRWA food aid program would not go through for the time being. Earlier this week, the U.S. said it would freeze $65 million pledged to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, transferring only $60 million. According to UNRWA, the United States provided more than $350 million in aid to the organization in 2017. In the Netherlands, International Aid Minister Sigrid Kaag, who used to work for UNRWA and is married to a Palestinian former Cabinet minister, said she would make available immediately her country’s annual budget of $15 million for UNRWA, which was planned to be dispensed in several payments.

Israel has accused UNRWA institutions of harboring terrorist activities against Israel. In October, a Hamas tunnel was discovered under a UNRWA-run school in the Gaza Strip. Israel has also accused UNRWA teachers of using antisemitic and anti-Israel textbooks. And Israel has charged that UNRWA’s definition of refugee perpetuates Palestinian intransigence and suffering.

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