A senior U.S. official says the United States will continue giving humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, despite the victory of the Islamic militant group Hamas in Palestinian parliamentary elections a month ago. The official is visiting the Palestinian territories and Israel.
Assistant Secretary of State David Welch says the U.S. will continue to give humanitarian aid to ease the plight of the Palestinians, despite the Hamas victory. He said the aid would bypass a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, and be given to humanitarian organizations.
He was speaking in the West Bank town of Ramallah, after meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Welch indicated that the aid is aimed at strengthening Mr. Abbas and his moderate policies.
"I reaffirmed our confidence in the program that he laid out, where he called for a negotiated two state solution to the crisis that has divided Israelis and Palestinians for so long, where he reaffirmed his support for approaching negotiations in a context free of violence and terror," said Mr. Welch.
Hamas has carried out dozens of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis. That prompted U.S. threats to cut off funds to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority on grounds that it is illegal under American law to give money to a terrorist organization.
But there were concerns that starving the impoverished Palestinian people of funds would lead to instability and more violence and terror. So giving money to humanitarian organizations offers a compromise.
Israel has cut off $50 million in monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, but it too is seeking ways to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
Israeli hawks accuse the U.S. and Israeli governments of sending the wrong message. They say that any aid to the Palestinians will only encourage Hamas to maintain its hard-line positions.
So far, Hamas hasn't budged on key international demands. It refuses to recognize Israel and renounce violence, and it still seeks the destruction of the Jewish state.