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USAID halting aid to Gaza over Hamas ‘meddling:’ US official

August 13, 2011

USAID employees are seen at the CARE international warehouse in the West Bank town of Ramallah

The United States has suspended its humanitarian assistance and funding for non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip in response to a Hamas decision to shut down the International Medical Corp for its refusal to submit to an audit by the Islamist movement, a US official in Washington told Al Arabiya on Friday.

Hamas had asked NGOs working in Gaza to reveal their sources of funding and provide details of their spending, which put many of those groups in an awkward position between their governments, which do not recognize Hamas and treat it as a terrorist organization, and the Islamist movement’s demands on the ground.

“The minister of interior of the government of Hamas intends to exercise its legal rights in the surveillance of all institutions operating in Gaza,” Hamas spokesman Taher Al Nunu had said, according to AFP.

He complained that “USAID refuses to recognize the government in Gaza,” adding that anyone who “wishes to work in Palestinian territory must obey its laws.”

A US official told AFP that suspension of US assistance was effective on August 11.

USAID sign at the West Bank

“Hamas, through a series of measures it has imposed over the past months, has created an environment which jeopardizes the ability of non-governmental organizations to provide assistance to Gaza’s most vulnerable residents,” the official said.

He said all US partner organizations would suspend their activities funded by the United States until these are able “to operate without interference or harassment from Hamas.”

Another official in Washington said he understood that Hamas has been demanding access to physically search files and records of NGOs, which would be unprecedented.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, insisted on Friday that it should be able to verify the accounts of NGOs financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Palestinian territories.

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