US restores funding to Gaza aid groups after spat
Jerusalem: The United States restored funding to international aid groups in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, a US official said, after the Palestinian territory`s Hamas rulers backed away from a demand that could have stripped the poverty-stricken area of USD 100 million in aid.
The official said the United States "paused" its funding on Friday after Hamas ignored a 48-hour deadline for withdrawing its demand to one of the groups to turn over its books for auditing.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions are ongoing, said the demand by Hamas to audit the books of international organisations would have violated US regulations banning contact with the group. The US, EU and Israel have declared Hamas a terror organisation for attacks on Israelis, including suicide bombings.
The Hamas Minister of Planning in Gaza, Mohammed Awad, said the Gaza office of the International Medical Corps reopened on Sunday after it was briefly closed for rejecting the Hamas demand to audit the group`s offices and books.
Awad said the medical aid organisation agreed to independent auditing.
Based on this compromise for an independent auditor, US funding for groups that work in Gaza was restored, according to the US official.
Earlier, Awad explained the audit demand by saying Hamas was trying to ensure that international organisations were providing services to citizens.
However, the US official described the Hamas demand to search the offices of international aid groups and conduct its own audit as "unprecedented”.
Aid groups have expressed concern in the past that Hamas was trying to exert control over their activities and funding.
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