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ICRC Warns of Increased Violence in Palestinian Territories


The International Committee of the Red Cross warns of a social breakdown and increased violence in the Palestinian territories, if governments withhold funds and assistance from the Palestinian Authority. The head of ICRC operations says humanitarian organizations cannot replace the Palestinian Authority as providers of public services.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says Palestinians are living under extreme hardship. It warns the situation will get even worse if the Palestinian Authority is unable to pay the salaries of its civil servants, maintain law and order and provide social services.

The director of Red Cross operations, Pierre Kraehenbuhl, tells VOA his organization is ready to step up aid activities to respond to the newer and growing needs of the Palestinian people. But, he says, neither the Red Cross nor any other humanitarian organization can replace the public functions and services of the Palestinian Authority.

"Providing support to humanitarian organizations in this phase, while very welcome, is not going to help address the range of problems that could arise from the breakdown of a public administration, as the Palestinian Authority is, because we do not have the range of activities that an administration would normally fulfill. Therefore, humanitarian organizations are not sort of the magic formula to address the range of problems that may be emerging, that we may be confronting in weeks and months ahead," Kraehenbuhl says.

The United States and European Union have decided to cut nearly a billion dollars in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority, until the Hamas-led government meets certain conditions. They are calling on Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace agreements.

Israel also has suspended the transfer of $50 million in tax revenues it collects for the Palestinians, until Hamas changes its hostile position.

Both Washington and the European Union say they will continue to support the Palestinian people, and channel aid to them through humanitarian organizations.

Kraehenbuhl says the consequences of withholding funds from the Palestinian Authority could be devastating.

"It is not excessively alarmist to believe that this kind of situation could lead to more violence ... because of a lack of capacity of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its role, a possible breakdown of law and order that could ensue and therefore an environment in which insecurity grows again," Kraehenbuhl says. "And, then, well obviously, the frustration and the hardship felt by the population could reach again another level, and that could deteriorate further. So, I think there are reasons to be worried about that."

Kraehenbuhl says Israeli officials have assured him they would take measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

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