Salem Radio Network News Sunday, February 25, 2024

World

Austria ends its suspension of aid to Palestinians

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria said on Thursday it was ending a suspension of aid to Palestinians that it announced two days after Hamas militants’ deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel, since a review had found no indication funds were being used to fund or promote terrorism.

Soon after Austria’s announcement on Oct. 9 that it was freezing aid pending the review, neighbouring Germany said it was also reviewing aid to the Palestinians. The European Union ordered its own review, and said last month there was no evidence of funds going to Hamas and assistance would continue.

“There is no indication that Austrian development projects funded by the ADA (Austrian Development Agency) were misused to fund or promote terrorism or to spread anti-Semitic content,” Austria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Nine projects funded by Austria had been reviewed with a total value of 17.5 million euros ($18.8 million), it said.

It did not specify what proportion of the projects were in the West Bank, which is controlled by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement is a rival to Hamas.

Israel has heavily bombed and sent troops into besieged Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attack, saying it wants to wipe out Hamas. At least 16,015 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza Health Ministry figures, while 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s incursion into Israel, according to Israeli tallies.

Aid agencies warn that a humanitarian disaster in Gaza is worsening fast, with most of its 2.3 million people homeless and trapped in a tiny, embattled coastal enclave, with little food, water, medical care, fuel or secure shelter.

The conservative People’s Party (OVP) that leads Austria’s ruling coalition has recently positioned the neutral country as one of the most pro-Israel members of the European Union.

The shift began during the OVP’s previous coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, which was founded in 1956 and appointed a former SS officer as its first leader. The FPO has since renounced its anti-Semitic past but Austria’s main Jewish group says it has not done enough and refuses to interact with it.

($1 = 0.9287 euros)

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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