US confirms further Palestinian aid cut

A Palestinian man walks near a USAID billboard in the village of Al-Badhan, north of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on August 25, 2018. (File photo / AFP)
Updated 17 September 2018

US confirms further Palestinian aid cut

JERUSALEM: The United States has cut additional aid to the Palestinians for programs supporting conflict resolution with Israelis, an official said Sunday, adding to more than $500 million in other cuts.
The latest cuts come from $10 million in programs on reconciliation involving Palestinians as well as Jewish and Arab Israelis.
The portion of the money involving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was being redirected to programs between Jewish and Arab Israelis, a US embassy official said.
It was not clear how much of the $10 million was being redirected.
US officials also could not confirm whether the latest cut meant all non-security related aid to the Palestinians had now been eliminated.
“As announced in August, the administration redirected more than $200 million that was originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza,” a US embassy official said.
“At the same time we redirected a portion of the $10 million which was planned for conflict management and mitigation.”
The official said the portion involving Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would be used “to enhance” programs in Israel instead.
US President Donald Trump has said he will withhold aid from the Palestinians to force them to negotiate as the White House prepares a plan for Middle East peace — what he has called the “ultimate deal.”
The Palestinian leadership cut off contact with the White House after Trump recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
They accuse Trump of blatant bias in favor of Israel and say he is blackmailing them to force them to accept the White House’s terms.
Last week the US State Department ordered the closure of the Palestinian mission in Washington and on Sunday the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said the staff had been given until October 13 to finish moving out.
“The employees were ordered to cease all operations, close down all bank accounts, and they were told that there would be no renewal of the lease. The staff was given until October 13 to vacate the premises,” the PLO said in a statement.
It said the US authorities had also revoked the visas of the wife of the Palestinian mission head and his two young children, aged five and seven.
They had already left the United States last week, it said.
Mission head Husam Zomlot was recalled to Ramallah by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in May in protest at the US embassy Jerusalem move.
Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said in the statement that the decision to cancel the Zomlot family visa was an “inhumane escalation.”
“This vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful,” she wrote. “The US has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level.”
In recent weeks, the US government has announced more than $500 million in cuts in Palestinian aid, including canceling support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
It has maintained security-related aid, having provided $61 million in assistance this year.

Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

Updated 19 February 2019

Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

  • The blast also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen
  • Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability

CAIRO: Two police officers were killed when a terror suspect blew himself up after he was surrounded by police near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on Monday.

The blast in the crowded Darb Al-Ahmar district also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen, the interior ministry said.

“As security surrounded the man and was set to arrest and control him, an explosive device in his possession went off,” the ministry said in a press statement.

The explosion took place after police chased the suspect who they believe had planted a bomb near a security staff close to a mosque in Giza on Friday, the statement said. Security officers had been able to defuse that device.

Monday’s explosion that took place near Al Azhar mosque at the heart of ancient Islamic Cairo damaged several shops.

“My shop’s front and windows were destroyed,” said Kareem Sayed Awad, a barbershop owner. “Not only that, but people have died. This is a tourist area and such incidents affect it.”

Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability that has hit the country in the years following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

In December three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died when a homemade bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo, near the famed pyramids in Giza.

Authorities have been seeking to lure tourists back by touting new archaeological discoveries and bolstering security around archaeological sites and in airports.

Tourism has slowly started picking up. The official statistics agency says tourist arrivals in Egypt in 2017 reached 8.3 million, up from 5.3 million the year before.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx in 2010 when over 14 million visitors flocked to the country.

Egypt has also for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which deepened following military’s ousting of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.

The attacks have been mainly concentrated in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula but have also spread to the mainland.

In February 2018, security forces launched a major anti-militant operation focused on the Sinai Peninsula, aimed at wiping out a local affiliate of the Daesh group.

On Saturday, an attack on an Egyptian army checkpoint in north Sinai left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected jihadist assailants killed, according to the military.

(With AFP)