GAZA - The United States has suspended
operations of the aid organizations it funds in the Hamas-ruled
Gaza Strip because the Islamist group had demanded confidential
information about their work, a US official told Reuters on
"USAID-funded partner organizations operating in Gaza are
forced by Hamas's actions to suspend their assistance work.
(They) were put on hold effective August 12," said the official,
who is based in the region.
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He added that "through a series of measures (Hamas) has
imposed over the past months, it has created an environment
which jeopardizes the ability of nongovernmental organizations
to provide assistance to Gaza's most vulnerable residents."
The official, who declined to be named, said Hamas had
demanded access to files and records of NGOs, which would reveal
financial and administrative information, details of staff
members and information on beneficiaries.
He said that Hamas had shut down the International Medical
Corps (IMC) an NGO and USAID partner organization, after its
officials objected to "unwarranted audits".
"We are disappointed that Hamas has once again chosen to put
its political agenda ahead of the welfare of the Palestinian
people," the official said, calling on the group "to cease its
interference ... so that we can resume our humanitarian and
development activities in Gaza."
Palestinian-based NGOs funded by the European Union have in
the past also complained of Hamas meddling in their affairs.
Hamas administration official Taher al-Nono said an
understanding had been reached which would allow independent
auditing teams to inspect the files of NGOs, but he added that
Hamas had the right to monitor their work in the territory.
The IMC will be allowed to reopen its offices on Saturday or
Sunday, he added.
Responding to the USAID decision to suspend its partner
organizations' work, Nono said "Such a decision sounds odd a day
after the understanding was reached ... we reject any foreign
intervention in Palestinian affairs."
The US official said some 600,000 Gazans - about a third
of the population of the coastal strip - were receiving some
$98 million worth of assistance from USAID projects in health,
education, construction and infrastructure.