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U.S. pledges Palestinian aid

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States will contribute $85 million to the United Nations agency providing aid to Palestinian refugees.

The State Department announced Tuesday that $25 million of the funds would go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza. Those funds will be used for "urgently needed food, medicines, and other critical humanitarian assistance," according to a statement.

The other $60 million will be given to UNRWA’s General Fund, which "will support the provision of basic and vocational education, primary health care, and relief and social services to more than 4.6 million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria." Additional funding by the U.S. is also planned later in 2009, according to the State Department.

The statement reiterates the U.S.’s "deep concern about the escalating violence in Gaza and commends UNRWA’s important work meeting the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza at this very difficult time," adding that "we hold Hamas fully responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence."

UNWRA has been criticized by members of Congress for mismanagement and ineffectiveness, as well as making sure its money does not go to known terrorists or terror organizations.

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