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US cuts $25 million from hospitals serving Palestinians


After cutting $200 million in Palestinian aid in August, US President Donald Trump is making further cuts. It comes as the US is preparing to unveil its peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

The US government has said it will redirect $25 million (€21.6 million) in aid for hospitals that mainly care for Palestinian patients.

The decision came after a review of assistance to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza "to ensure these funds were being spent in accordance with US national interests and were providing value to the US taxpayer," according to the US State Department.

"As a result of that review, at the direction of the president, we will be redirecting approximately $25 million originally planned for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network," a State Department official said Saturday, adding that "those funds will go to high-priority projects elsewhere."

Read more: German-Israeli relations: What you need to know

According to the World Health Organization, the US funds have previously made it possible for many Palestinians to seek specialized treatment, such as cardiac surgery, neonatal intensive care or children's dialysis, which are unavailable in the West Bank and Gaza.

The US State Department already announced a cut of more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians in August following a funding review.

US hostility toward Palestinians has increased since Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December — a move that caused outrage among Palestinians and Muslims worldwide.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Clashes with police

A Palestinian protester hurls stones toward Israeli police during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit Al, close to the West Bank city of Ramallah. Palestinians called for a "day of rage" in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At least two protesters were killed on Friday during clashes with security forces.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Protests following prayers

Jerusalem itself has seen some of the largest protests, as here in front of the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City. Hundreds of additional police were deployed to control the masses of protesters after Palestinian calls for protests after Friday prayers.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Protests reach Iraq

And those calls for protest have received a response from Shiite Muslims in Iraq. These men have taken to the streets in the southern city of Basra. Palestinians are angry because they want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state; Trump's move, supported by Israel, could thwart that desire.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Israeli and US flags burned

Indian-controlled Kashmir also saw protests, with Muslim men seen here burning Israeli and US flags during a rally in Budgam, southwest of Srinagar. Protesters marched in several places in Srinagar and other parts of the region after Friday prayers, chanting slogans such as "Down with America" and "Down with Israel."

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
'Long live Islam'

In Malaysia, more than 1,000 Muslims protested outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur against Trump's decision. The protesters, led by Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, marched from a nearby mosque after Friday prayers to the US Embassy, halting traffic as they chanted "Long live Islam.”

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Turkey: Protesters voice their indignation

These Turkish women are venting their anger in support of the Palestinian cause. But Trump's decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem has been condemned by many governments of non-Muslim countries as well.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Trump's picture burned

Protesters in Egypt burn a picture of US President Donald Trump with his face crossed during a protest in front of the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo. The picture reads, "Journalists are telling you Trump, Jerusalem is Arab." Hundreds of protesters also gathered in Al-Azhar mosque and outside in its courtyard.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
'Stop your blind support'!

In Jakarta, Indonesia, protesters in the world's most populous Muslim nation wear Palestine headbands. More than 300 protesters shouted "Go to hell Israel!" and called on Trump to stop his "blind support" for the Jewish state.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Massive marches in Iran

The streets of the Iranian capital, Tehran, have also been the scene of huge protests at the US decision. As an arch-enemy of Israel, the Iranian government is likely to view the US move as particularly offensive.

Muslims worldwide respond to Palestinian call for protests
Muslims in Germany join the outrage

Germany has also seen protests, with mostly Muslim demonstrators attending a rally at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate while waving Palestinian and Turkish flags. The German government has been among those to warn urgently against Trump's move.

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Palestinians angered

"This is not a formula of peacebuilding, this is a complete inhuman and immoral action that adopts the Israeli right-wing narrative to target and punish Palestinian citizens to compromise their rights to independence," said Ahmad Shami, a spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

A statement from the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the latest aid cut was part of a US attempt "to liquidate the Palestinian cause" and said it would threaten the lives of thousands of Palestinians and the livelihoods of thousands of hospital employees.

Read more: What is Jerusalem's contentious holy site Temple Mount?

"This dangerous and unjustified American escalation has crossed all red lines and is considered a direct aggression against the Palestinian people," it said.

"Such an act of political blackmail goes against the norms of human decency and morality," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee.

Trump and his Middle East advisers are due to release the administration's peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

"You'll get money, but we're not paying you until we make a deal," he said in Washington on Thursday. "If we don't make a deal, we're not paying," he added.

A history of the Middle East peace process
UN Security Council Resolution 242, 1967

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, passed on November 22, 1967, called for the exchange of land for peace. Since then, many of the attempts to establish peace in the region have referred to 242. The resolution was written in accordance with Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which resolutions are recommendations, not orders.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Camp David Accords, 1978

A coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt and Syria, fought Israel in the Yom Kippur or October War in October 1973. The conflict eventually led to the secret peace talks that yielded two agreements after 12 days. This picture from March 26, 1979, shows Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, his US counterpart Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin after signing the accords in Washington.

A history of the Middle East peace process
The Madrid Conference, 1991

The US and the former Soviet Union came together to organize a conference in the Spanish capital city of Madrid. The discussions involved Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestinians — not from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) — who met with Israeli negotiators for the first time. While the conference achieved little, it did create the framework for later, more productive talks.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Oslo I Accord, 1993

The negotiations in Norway between Israel and the PLO, the first direct meeting between the two parties, resulted in the the Oslo I Accord. The agreement was signed in the US in September 1993. It demanded that Israeli troops withdraw from West Bank and Gaza and a self-governing, interim Palestinian authority be set up for a five-year transitional period. A second accord was signed in 1995.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Camp David Summit Meeting, 2000

US President Bill Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to the retreat in July 2000 to discuss borders, security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. Despite the negotiations being more detailed than ever before, no agreement was concluded. The failure to reach a consensus at Camp David was followed by renewed Palestinian uprising, the Second Intifada.

A history of the Middle East peace process
The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002

The Camp David negotiations were followed first by meetings in Washington and then in Cairo and Taba, Egypt — all without results. Later the Arab League proposed the Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut in March 2002. The plan called on Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 borders so that a Palestinian state could be set up in the West Bank and Gaza. In return, Arab countries would agree to recognize Israel.

A history of the Middle East peace process
The Roadmap, 2003

The US, EU, Russia and the UN worked together as the Middle East Quartet to develop a road map to peace. While Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas accepted the text, his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon had more reservations with the wording. The timetable called for a final agreement on a two-state solution to be reached in 2005. Unfortunately, it was never implemented.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Annapolis, 2007

In 2007 US President George W. Bush hosted a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to relaunch the peace process. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took part in talks with officials from the Quartet and over a dozen Arab states. It was agreed that further negotiations would be held with the goal of reaching a peace deal by the end of 2008.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Washington, 2010

In 2010, US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to and implement a ten-month moratorium on settlements in disputed territories. Later, Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all issues. Negotiations began in Washington in September 2010, but within weeks there was a deadlock.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Cycle of escalation and ceasefire continues

A new round of violence broke out in and around Gaza late 2012. A ceasefire was reached between Israel and those in power in the Gaza Strip, which held until June 2014. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 resulted in renewed violence and eventually led to the Israeli military operation Protective Edge. It ended with a ceasefire on August 26, 2014.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Paris summit, 2017

Envoys from over 70 countries gathered in Paris, France, to discuss the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu slammed the discussions as "rigged" against his country. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives attended the summit. "A two-state solution is the only possible one," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at the opening of the event.

A history of the Middle East peace process
Deteriorating relations in 2017

Despite the year's optimistic opening, 2017 brought further stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A deadly summer attack on Israeli police at the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, sparked deadly clashes. Then US President Donald Trump's plan to move the embassy to Jerusalem prompted Palestinian leader Abbas to say "the measures ... undermine all peace efforts."

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law/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)