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U.S. cuts to Palestinians begin to have impact

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Reports of rollbacks in Palestinian aid projects are emerging as massive cuts in U.S. aid to the Palestinians kick in.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that up to 90,000 Palestinians will not get food aid in programs that are administered by nongovernmental organizations funded by U.S. assistance.

NPR reported last week that a major sewage project in Jericho, near completion, will be discarded, and that a school planned for the Bethlehem area also will be abandoned. The U.S. Agency for International Development will sack most of its staff in the region, NPR said.

Legislation that passed last year mandates massive cuts — estimated at more than $200 million — to the Palestinians until they stop recompensing the families of Palestinians who have attacked Israelis. President Donald Trump has authorized additional cuts, including to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that administers to Palestinians and their descendants.

In addition, according to separate legislation passed, the Palestinian Authority accepting U.S. assistance would trigger liability for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. court decisions in favor of families of victims of terrorist acts. As a result, the Palestinian Authority recently declined the aid, NPR reported, in order not to be liable for the money the courts awarded against the Palestinians.

The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that the legislation triggering liability inadvertently affects U.S. funding for Palestinian security forces, which Israel considers critical in keeping the peace in the West Bank. Lawmakers are scrambling to amend the legislation to allow a cutout for assistance to the Palestinian security force, the report said, but have been stymied by the monthlong U.S. government shutdown.

Separately, the Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was considering suspending the transfer of $15 million in Qatari funds for humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip as clashes are heating up on the Israel-Gaza border.