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Austria ends suspension of aid to Palestinians

December 7, 2023 at 1:04 pm

Smoke rises from the collapsed buildings following Israeli attacks hit Jabalia Camp as residents and civil defense teams conduct search and rescue operations in the rubble of the buildings in Jabalia, Gaza on December 06, 2023 [Mahmoud Sabbah – Anadolu Agency]

Austria said on Thursday that it is ending the suspension of aid to Palestinians that it announced two days after the Hamas-led attack on Israel in October, Reuters has reported. A review of the move found no indication that aid was being used to fund or promote terrorism.

Soon after Austria’s announcement on 9 October that it was freezing aid pending the review, neighbouring Germany said it was also reviewing aid to the Palestinians. The European Union ordered its own review, and said last month that there was no evidence of funds going to Hamas and so assistance would continue.

“There is no indication that Austrian development projects funded by the ADA (Austrian Development Agency) were misused to fund or promote terrorism or to spread anti-Semitic content,” said Austria’s Foreign Ministry.

Nine projects funded by Austria had been reviewed with a total value of €17.5 million ($18.8m), it said. The ministry did not specify what proportion of the projects were in the occupied West Bank, which is controlled by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement is a rival to Hamas.

Israel launched an air and ground offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza after Hamas led an attack on Israeli army barracks and settlements in the vicinity of Gaza on 7 October. In response to “daily Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people and their sanctities,” the resistance fighters crossed the nominal border into the occupation state and took around 240 hostages. Since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopter gunships and tanks of the Israel Defence Forces had in fact killed many of the 1,200 soldiers and civilians alleged by Israel to have been killed by Hamas.

The apartheid occupation state has since killed 16,248 Palestinians in Gaza, 7,112 of whom were children, and 4,885 of whom were women. More than 43,500 people have been wounded by the Israeli offensive, and at least 8,000 are thought to be buried under the rubble of their homes destroyed by Israeli bombs. Moreover, the healthcare sector in Gaza has collapsed under the weight of the casualties and attacks on hospitals and medical staff by Israeli forces, all of which has created an “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe” according to official Palestinian and UN sources.

Aid agencies warn that the humanitarian disaster in Gaza is worsening fast, with most of its 2.3 million people homeless and trapped in a tiny, embattled coastal enclave, with little food, water, medical care, fuel or secure shelter.

The conservative People’s Party (OVP) that leads Austria’s ruling coalition has recently positioned the neutral country as one of the most pro-Israel members of the European Union. The shift began during the OVP’s previous coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, which was founded in 1956 and appointed a former SS officer as its first leader. The FPO has since renounced its anti-Semitic past but Austria’s main Jewish group says it has not done enough and refuses to interact with it.

READ: EU condemns ‘intolerable’ arson attack on Palestinian school in occupied West Bank