Last updated: 12 August, 2011

US warns Hamas it could pause aid

The United States has warned the radical Palestinian group Hamas it will “pause” humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip unless it stops its alleged meddling in aid delivery, a US official said Friday.

The US government, using “third parties, made Hamas aware of our deep concern regarding their interference with the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Gaza,” a US official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The government then warned the group, which has controlled Gaza since evicting Fatah in 2007, “that there would be a pause in assistance,” if it failed to stop such interference, he added.

Media reports said Washington could withdraw $100 million (87.8 million euros) in funding for US non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Gaza.

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

“By having access to these files and records, that would give them access to financial and administrative information, as well as sensitive personal information about staff members of our NGO partners,” the official said.

Hamas demanded on Friday to verify the accounts of NGOs financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

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

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