U.S. commits $47 million in humanitarian aid for Gaza

(JTA) — The United States has committed $47 million to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The money will be for “direct humanitarian assistance,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed Monday night in Cairo at a news conference with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The assistance, according to the State Department, includes $15 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for its $60 million Gaza Flash Appeal; $3.5 million in emergency relief assistance from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance; $10 million in existing USAID bilateral funding, redirected to meet immediate humanitarian needs in Gaza; and $18.5 million in new USAID bilateral funding for humanitarian and emergency relief assistance.

Some 600 Gaza Palestinians, mostly civilians, reportedly have been killed since Israel launched its Operation Protective Edge 15 days ago in a bid to stop rocket fire into the country from Gaza. At least 26 Israeli soldiers and two civilians have been killed.

“We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel’s appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself,” Kerry said. “No country can stand by while rockets are attacking it and tunnels are dug in order to come into your country and assault your people. But always, in any kind of conflict, there is a concern about civilians, about children, women, communities that are caught in it. And we are particularly trying to focus on a way to respond to their very significant needs.”

He added that the United States “will work to see if there is some way to not only arrive at a cease-fire of some kind, but to get to a discussion about the underlying issues. Nothing will be resolved by any cease-fire, temporary or long, without really getting to those issues at some point. And that’s what we need to do.”

Ban called on Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel and said he understands why Israel has to respond militarily, “but there is a proportionality. And most of the Palestinian people have been — most of the death toll are Palestinian people.”

“I fully understand, fully sympathize the sufferings of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza,” the U.N. leader said. “These restrictions should be lifted as soon as possible so that people should not resort to this kind of violence as a way of expressing their grievances.

“At the same time, I fully appreciate the legitimate right to defend their country and citizens of Israel. Israel should also be able to live in peace and security without being endangered of their citizens.”

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