US promises $400 million in Palestinian aid as ceasefire push grows

US promises $400 million in Palestinian aid as ceasefire push grows
The $400 million aid package will be used for food, drinking water, health supplies and other aid to Palestinians.
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised $404 million for food, drinking water, health supplies and other aid to the Palestinians [Getty]

The United States on Tuesday promised more than $400 million in new aid for the Palestinians at an emergency summit in Jordan, where world leaders backed a US push for a ceasefire as the only ultimate solution to help war-ravaged Gaza.

Jordan and Egypt called the urgent talks on the Dead Sea as aid groups warned conditions were worse than ever in Gaza, with virtually the whole population of more than two million people relying on sporadic aid deliveries.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a new trip across the region as he seeks to press a ceasefire proposal between Israel and Hamas, promised $404 million for food, drinking water, health supplies and other aid to the Palestinians.

Hitting back at critics of US support for Israel, Blinken noted that a UN appeal for the Palestinians was only one-third funded, with a shortfall of some $2.3 billion.

"Some who have expressed great concern over the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza, including countries with the capacity to give a lot, have provided very little or nothing at all," Blinken said, likely referring to US adversaries China and Russia.

"It is time for everyone - every one - to step up. And for those who have already given and given generously, give more," he said.

He called on countries to press Hamas to accept the ceasefire proposal laid out on May 31 by President Joe Biden, saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured him of support.

UN chief Antonio Guterres also supported the US-led proposal, telling the conference: "The horror must stop".

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"The speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza is beyond anything in my years as secretary-general," he said.

Defence of UNRWA

The US pledge has brought its aid contribution to $674 million since the October 7 when Israel began its brutal military operation.

Blinken did not specify how the United States would deliver the assistance, but Washington has focused on the World Food Programme and private aid groups.

The United States is the largest donor to the Palestinians. It also provides Israel with $3.8 billion in annual military aid and provided weaponry that has been used to kill Palestinians in Gaza, throughout the war.

The US Congress has banned further contributions to the main provider of assistance on the ground -- UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Israel claimed in January that a number of the agency's employees may have participated in the October 7 attack, though it did not provide sufficient evidence to back the claims, leading to a number of investigations to be dropped.

Most leaders at the summit strongly defended UNRWA. Giving a toll of 193 agency workers killed in the war, Guterres appealed to "the world to stand united to safeguard UNRWA in the face of outrageous and relentless attacks".

Prime Minister Robert Golob of Slovenia - one of four European countries that have recently recognised a Palestinian state - said his country was increasing UNRWA funding.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, an outspoken critic of Israel's military operation whose government also recognised a state of Palestine, announced another 16 million euros ($17 million) in assistance.

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Sanchez praised the US diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire, saying, "now we call on Hamas and Israel to act in a responsible manner and seize the new opportunity in front of us".

Drastic aid needs

The incoming leader of Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, Prabowo Subianto, said Jakarta was ready to send medical teams, a field hospital and a hospital ship as well as to evacuate 1,000 people for medical treatment.

"Although we are willing to support and contribute to all these efforts, the final solution to this problem is a two-state solution," Prabowo said.

Israel's military offensive has killed at least 37,164 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, mostly women and children.

Much of Gaza has been reduced to rubble and nearly all its 2.4 million people displaced by the war.

Despite major initiatives, including a specially built US pier, aid to Gaza remains severely restricted.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt - the main conduit for humanitarian and fuel deliveries - has been closed for more than a month after Israeli troops seized the Palestinian side from Hamas.