U.S. fails to make payment to U.N. agency that helps Palestinians

A Palestinian boy drinks hot tea outside his family's residence during rainy, cold weather in a slum on the outskirts of Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
(Khalil Hamra / Associated Press)

After threatening to cut off aid, the Trump administration has failed to make a scheduled payment to the United Nations refugee agency that works with Palestinians, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.

A disbursement of about $120 million was scheduled to be made on Tuesday, and all the paperwork for such a transaction had already been completed. But the payment did not happen, the person said, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss internal matters.

However, the U.S. has not formally notified the organization, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, of a final decision on whether funding will be discontinued or maintained, the person said.

A spokesman for the agency, Christopher Gunness, said Friday: “We are seeing the reports on this matter but have not been informed directly of a formal decision either way by the U.S. administration.”


President Trump and his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, have threatened to freeze aid to the Palestinians as punishment for their refusal to accept Trump’s Dec. 6 decision to declare the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinians also claim part of the city for their capital in a future independent state.

UNRWA pays for schools, clinics and other programs for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants in five countries or entities. The U.S. supplies roughly a third of UNRWA’s budget, or about $300 million annually.

The State Department did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Ann M. Simmons in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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5:34 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from UNRWA.

This article was originally published at 3:30 p.m.