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EU agrees to continue aid to Palestinians after 'careful' review of funds

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the results of a review that confirmed funds from the EU were not be funneled to Hamas to launch further attacks against Israel amid the ongoing Middle East war. File Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the results of a review that confirmed funds from the EU were not be funneled to Hamas to launch further attacks against Israel amid the ongoing Middle East war. File Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The European Union said it will keep aid flowing to Palestinians in Gaza after an audit confirmed funds were not being funneled to Hamas to launch further attacks against Israel amid the ongoing Middle East war.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the results of the review on Tuesday, while emphasizing the convoluted dynamics of the conflict on the world stage had warranted a "careful review of our financial assistance."

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"This review has confirmed that the safeguards in place are effective," she said. "Work is now ongoing on the design of our future support to the Palestinians in view of the changing and still evolving situation."

The increased scrutiny of the funds by the European Commission comes as the EU is currently the largest international aid donor to the Palestinian people.

The 27-nation bloc agreed to provide $1.4 billion in support as part of the European Joint Strategy through 2024, of which $800 million has already been approved to help civic organizations and public projects in Gaza, as well as contributions to the United Nations for additional relief efforts.

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The funds review examined existing failsafes that worked to protect international aid in past years, and found that so far no money had fallen into the wrong hands in Gaza amid the conflict, which is unabated after more than six weeks, although a new cease-fire agreement could potentially free hundreds of Israeli hostages in the coming days.

As part of the audit, the EU also conducted a parallel review of ground operations in the region, while noting upcoming infrastructure projects in Gaza worth more than $75 million to the Palestinian people.

The Commission pledged to screen all new work contracts and to conduct routine risk assessments to safeguard the proper distribution of funds.

EU officials began examining the paper trail two days after the war began on Oct. 7 to prevent the potential diversion of funds to terrorist groups seeking to incite more violence in the region, as well as to assess whether financial support would need to be adjusted in light of a fresh crisis in the Middle East.

At the time, EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels as a dispute emerged over the suspension of $728 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority for new developments inside Gaza following the attack on Israel by Hamas.

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However, several EU nations expressed displeasure with the decision to immediately put aside the funds, arguing the move would only undermine anti-terrorism efforts.

That's when the Commission stepped in with the urgent review of the payments to Palestine, while EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell clarified the bloc would "not suspend the due payments" as Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi previously said it would.

"The suspension of the payments -- punishing all the Palestinian people -- would have damaged the EU interests in the region and would have only further emboldened terrorists," Borrell said at the time.

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