Hamas official: We reached deal with US on Gaza aid

Report: Hamas says deal reached with USAID through UN; compromise comes after US officials said they had cut NGO operations in Gaza.

Palestinian holds IRC sign outside Hamas_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Palestinian holds IRC sign outside Hamas_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
A day after the United States said it had cut aid to Gaza, a Hamas official said the Islamist group and the United States have reached a compromise that will allow USAID to continue its operations in the Gaza Strip, AFP reported.
The deal was reached by Hamas and USAID “through the United Nations,” the Hamas official said.
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On Friday, a US official told Reuters that the US had suspended operations of the aid organizations it funds in the Gaza Strip because Hamas had demanded confidential information about their work.
“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.
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, 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 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 International Medical Corps would be allowed to reopen its offices in the next day or two, 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.
Reuters contributed to this report