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US State Dept says it wants to see $75M in food aid for Palestinian refugees freed up

August 5, 2023 at 2:47 pm

Children in Gaza protest outside the UN High Commissioner’s headquarters against the reduction in UN food aid allocated to the Strip on 6 June 2023 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

The US State Department said Friday that it is in talks with Congress as a pair of Republican lawmakers continues to block the dispersal of some $75 million in food aid for Palestinian refugees in hopes of seeing the funds released, Anadolu reports.

“The Department of State remains in discussion with Congress regarding funds provided in the FY 2023 appropriations act intended to maintain food assistance to vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in response to rising food and transport costs,” a State Department spokesperson told Anadolu

“The Administration supports the intended use of the funds in question, which are designed to address worsening food insecurity in Palestinian communities,” the spokesperson added in an emailed statement.

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Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republicans on the Senate and House of Representatives foreign relations committees, have since late July been blocking the State Department from providing the funds to the UN’s Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA).

UNRWA has been a frequent target of Republicans. After he assumed office, President Joe Biden reversed ex-President Donald Trump’s efforts to squeeze off funding to the UN agency and Palestinians generally.

Risch led legislation alongside 13 other Republicans in February seeking to have the US halt all funding for UNRWA unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken certifies every 180 days “that UNRWA meets strict accountability and transparency criteria.”

“This legislation will cease US contributions to UNRWA unless the administration certifies that the agency is not affiliated with US designated foreign terrorist organizations and does not support anti-Semitic rhetoric,” he said in a statement at the time.

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