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Lukewarm Palestinian Response to International Aid Plan


Palestinians have given a lukewarm response to an international emergency aid program that would bypass the new government, led by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel has welcomed the plan.

Palestinian officials say the international aid plan is a good first step, but inadequate. The plan was approved by the "Quartet" of Mideast mediators - the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia. It will cover Palestinian health and utilities costs and provide cash allowances to the poorest sector of the population.

However, the Quartet said international sanctions that have made it impossible for Hamas to pay the salaries of 165-thousand Palestinian Authority employees will remain in place. The salaries are three months overdue. The Quartet says the sanctions will not be lifted, until Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel.

Hamas, which seeks Israel's destruction, says those conditions are unacceptable. Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad says conditions should apply to both sides.

"If they want the Palestinians to renounce violence, they should ask Israel also to stop all kinds of attacks against our people in the West Bank and Gaza," Hamad said.

Israel said it welcomes any aid plan that does not fund terrorism. Government spokesman Mark Regev:

"Israel will do nothing to impede humanitarian support for the Palestinian people. We have no interest in hardship in the Palestinian territories," he said.

Israel has been worried that economic collapse in the West Bank and Gaza could spark chaos and violence, so it believes the Quartet has taken a measured response. The new plan aims to ward off a looming humanitarian crisis, while continuing to squeeze the Hamas-led government.

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