Suspended U.S. charity reopens in Gaza


(JTA) — A U.S. charity reopened in Gaza just days after Hamas had suspended its operations and the U.S. threatened to withdraw more than $100 million in aid to Gaza.

Robert Serry, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, said in a statement released Sunday that he welcomed the reopening of the International Medical Corps in Gaza.  The statement said that Sperry "recognizes the important work of NGOs in Gaza and is confident that a way forward has been reached in the interest of the people of Gaza."

On Aug. 11, the U.S. State Department had said it would withdraw the aid to Gaza if Hamas leaders did not end demands to audit American charities working there. The withdrawal, if enacted, would affect spending in Gaza on health care, agriculture and water infrastructure.

The State Department message, which was reported by The New York Times, came after Hamas suspended operations of the International Medical Corps a week earlier for refusing to submit to an audit conducted by Hamas.

Hamas has increased surveillance over nongovernmental organizations for months now, causing rising tension. In June, Hamas demanded that groups allow its officials to audit their finances. U.S. policy, however, forbids direct contact between NGOs and groups labeled as terrorist by the State Department, as Hamas is, and would lead to an end to humanitarian aid.

A Hamas official announced Saturday that it had reached a compromise with USAID through the United Nations to keep aid coming into Gaza.

In July, the Norwegian government sent Hamas a letter saying that if Hamas conducted an on-site audit, charities "might suspend their operations, which will affect significant parts of Gaza’s population." It also said that Norway would hold Hamas responsible for aid withdrawal.

Taher al-Nounou, a spokesman for the Hamas government, rejected both warnings, saying that “These organizations do not recognize and do not want to recognize the Palestinian law. We do not kneel down to any threat. Any organization that wants to operate in the Palestinian territories must respect the laws.”

Recommended from JTA