EU to review aid to Palestinians following Hamas attack on Israel

Source indicates aid will still be maintained; Germany, Austria separately say they’re suspending and reviewing aid to West Bank and Gaza

Israeli security and rescue forces at the scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit buildings and cars in the southern city of Ashdod, October 9, 2023. (Liron Moldovan/Flash90)
Israeli security and rescue forces at the scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit buildings and cars in the southern city of Ashdod, October 9, 2023. (Liron Moldovan/Flash90)

The European Union will halt all aid to the Palestinians, an EU commissioner said Monday, though a senior European source told the Times of Israel the decision will not be implemented due to opposition from member states.

“All payments immediately suspended. All projects put under review. All new budget proposals, including for 2023 postponed until further notice. Comprehensive assessment of the whole portfolio,” European Union Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi posted on social media.

Varhelyi is a diplomat from Hungary, which takes a much more hawkish approach toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than many of the 27 other members of the EU.

The senior European source speculated that Varhelyi’s decision will be walked back Tuesday when the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell meets with European foreign ministers.

Borrell himself appeared to walk back Varhelyi’s claim later Monday, tweeting that there would indeed be a review of the funding but no suspension of due payments.

“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,” Borell tweeted.

Germany also said Monday it was temporarily halting development aid to the Palestinians as it carries out a thorough review of the financial help after the Hamas terror group’s surprise attack on Israel.

“It is being examined, that is, temporarily suspended,” said a spokeswoman from the Economic Cooperation and Development Ministry.

The aftermath of a rocket strike from the Gaza Strip that hit a building and cars in the southern city of Ashkelon. October 9, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The aid included help for desalination projects, food security, and job creation, and amounted to 125 million euros ($131 million).

The Austrian government likewise announced that it was suspending development aid to Palestinian-controlled areas, in reaction to the attack.

Stunned by the unprecedented assault on its territory, a shocked Israel has counted over 800 dead and over 2,000 injured as hundreds of Palestinian gunmen breached the border into the country on Saturday, then roamed southern areas for hours, killing those they found. Over 100 men, women, and children were kidnapped and dragged back to Gaza as hostages.

Alongside the attack Hamas also launched over 5,000 rockets all over Israel. Rocket attacks on the south have continued with Tel Aviv and Jerusalem also targeted. Israel responded with a barrage of strikes on terrorist infrastructure in Gaza that local health authorities say have killed 430.

“We will put all development aid payments on ice for the time being,” Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told public radio Oe1.

He said the decision would affect 19 million euros ($20 million) of aid money.

Schallenberg also said Austria would review all projects with the West Bank and Gaza and consult with the European Union and its international partners.

“The scale of the terror is so horrendous. It’s such a fracture that one cannot go back to business as usual,” he added.

He also announced that he would summon the Iranian ambassador to the ministry to address the country’s “abhorrent reactions” to the Hamas attacks over the weekend.

Iran’s clerical leadership openly supports the Islamist Hamas terror group, which controls the blockaded and impoverished Gaza Strip, and has hailed the attack on Israel.

About 8,000 Austrians are currently living in Israel.

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