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 Friday.
"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."
Hours after the initial report, a Hamas official announced his organization had reached a compromise with USAID in order to continue the funding of aid programs in Gaza.
"We have reached a compromise with USAID through the United Nations," the Hamas member stated.
Grocery shop in Gaza (Photo: AP)
'We reject foreign intervention'
Earlier on Friday, 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.
The US officials estimate 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.
Washington has designated Hamas as a terrorist group and it is shunned by the West for spurning permanent coexistence with Israel. The group seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction in 2007.
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