The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has officially ceased all assistance to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
According to Reuters, the move came in line with a January 31st deadline set by the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), a new US legislation that allows Americans to sue foreign aid recipients in US court over alleged complicity in “acts of war.”
Reuters quoted a senior US official who confirmed that all USAID operations were ceased in the Palestinian Territory, including the end of some $60 million in U.S. aid for Palestinian security forces.
Following the passage of the ATCA, the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to Reuters, declined further US funding for its security forces and other branches of government, over concerns they could be exposed to anti-terrorism lawsuits.
“At the request of the Palestinian Authority, we have wound down certain projects and programs funded with assistance under the authorities specified in ATCA in the West Bank and Gaza,” Reuters quoted the US official as saying.
The official did not clarify how long the cessation of funds would last, though analysts have speculated that US funding could return to the Palestinian Territories if local officials agree to American-led peace negotiations — something Palestinians have boycotted ever since US President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
According to the report, there are currently no steps being taken to close the USAID mission in the Palestinian territories, and no decision had been made regarding future staffing at the USAID mission in the US Embassy.
In November 2018, USAID announced that by early 2019, their operations will be completely shut down, leaving thousands of local Palestinian institutions and businesses that benefit from USAID funding empty handed.
For over 20 years, USAID has provided some $5.5 billion for infrastructure, education, health, and economic projects in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Since he took office, President Trump has slashed some $500 million in US aid to Palestinians, leaving many organizations and aid programs strapped for cash.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which provides essential services to some 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, took the biggest hit when the US pulled all its funding — some $350 million annually — last year.
The cuts have threatened the closure of UNRWA schools and clinics, as well as the reduction in healthcare and food assistance programs.
Last month, The World Food Programme (WFP), which provided assistance to 250,000 Palestinians in Gaza and 110,000 in the West Bank, announced severe reductions and suspensions in aid for Palestinian beneficiaries due to funding shortages brought on by US aid cuts.
The financial crisis of organizations like UNRWA and WFP will disproportionately affect Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, who make up more than 70% of the coastal enclave’s 2 million residents.