December 30, 2008 / 5:03 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. says will give $85 million to help Palestinians

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States announced on Tuesday it would give $85 million to the U.N. agency providing aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The announcement comes as the humanitarian situation is worsening in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which has been pounded by Israel for the past four days in retaliation for rockets fired into the Jewish state by Hamas and other Palestinian factions.

The U.S. funds, which will help cover appeals for aid by the agency for 2009, would pay for urgently needed food, medicines and other humanitarian aid for Palestinian refugees, said the department in a statement.

Of the $85 million, the State Department said $25 million would go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) emergency appeal for the West Bank and Gaza and the remainder to a general fund run by the agency for Palestinian refugees in the region.

“The United States reiterates its deep concern about the escalating violence in Gaza and commends UNRWA’s important work meeting the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza at this very difficult time,” said the statement.

“We hold Hamas fully responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence,” it added.

The State Department called on “all concerned” to protect innocent lives and address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza by granting the necessary access to aid groups trying to help the population.

Reporting by Sue Pleming; Editing by Eric Beech

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