US Freezes $125m To UN Agency For Palestinian Refugees

Many Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan stand to suffer as a result of the massive aid cut to a U.N. agency helping them.

The United States has not yet transferred a planned $125 million payment to the United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, Axios news site reported on Friday, days after President Donald Trump threatened to withhold future aid payments to Palestinians.

Axios reported Friday that the Trump administration had frozen the funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and was conducting a broader review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority. That money, according to Axios, was supposed to be transferred on Jan. 1.

They further warned that such cut would be “catastrophic” for the organization, negatively impacting Palestinians living in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon whose livelihood depend on aid by UNRWA.

A State Department official denied that the department had missed a deadline, telling The Hill that funding decisions were still underway.

“Contrary to reports that we have halted funding to UNRWA, the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place, and we have missed no deadline,” the official said.

A State Department official had told Axios that the funds were not necessarily frozen, and that the administration has until Jan. 15 to decide its next steps.

Trump said on Tuesday he would withhold money from the Palestinians, accusing them of being “no longer willing to talk peace” with Israel.

”We pay HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel … with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” Trump said on Twitter.

The United States is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of nearly $370 million as of 2016, according to UNRWA’s website.