US senators push Trump administration to restore aid to Palestinians amid coronavirus outbreak

US senators push Trump administration to restore aid to Palestinians amid coronavirus outbreak
A group of US senators called on the Trump administration to restore aid to the Palestinians, as the West Bank and Gaza Strip deal with mounting novel coronavirus cases.
2 min read
28 March, 2020
In 2018, Trump's administration scrapped over $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians [Getty]
A group of US senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, on Thursday urged President Donald Trump's administration to supply aid to the Palestinians, fearing a "humanitarian disaster" as the occupied territories grapple with increasing COVID-19 cases.

As of Wednesday, there were upwards of 60 confirmed cases in the West Bank - including one death - and at least nine cases in the Gaza Strip.

In a letter addressed to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, eight senators asked the Trump administration to "provide medicine, medical equipment, and other necessary assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip ... to prevent a humanitarian disaster."

In 2018, the Trump administration scrapped over $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians and contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

The White House also cut $25 million meant for East Jerusalem hospitals, stating it would put the money toward "high-priority projects elsewhere".

The letter was led by Senators Warren and Chris Van Hollen. Signatories included Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, Tom Carper and Sherrod Brown.

The letter also pointed to the particular hardships faced by the densely-populated Gaza Strip, such as poverty and the ongoing blockade implemented by Israel.

"Altogether, these conditions, if compounded by a COVID-19 outbreak in the region, would further endanger the health of Palestinians in the coastal enclave," the letter read.

The senators expressed concern that the Trump administration is "failing to take every reasonable step to help combat this public health emergency in the Palestinian Territories".

Aside from the US withholding much-needed aid, the Palestinians' coronavirus response efforts also suffer under Israel's occupation.

On Thursday, Israeli authorities entered a West Bank village to confiscate materials designated to build a clinic and emergency housing, according to Israeli human rights monitor Btselem.

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