Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

    NNA – Austria said on Monday it was suspending its aid to Palestinians in response to Islamist group Hamas#39;s deadly attack on Israel, while Germany appeared to do the same, saying no aid payments were currently being made.

    Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the country was suspending aid totalling around 19 million euros ($20 million) for a handful of projects.

    Neutral Austria#39;s ruling conservatives have adopted one of the most pro-Israel stances in the European Union in recent years. The Israeli flag has been hoisted above the chancellor#39;s office and the Foreign Ministry after the shock Hamas assault launched from the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

    quot;The extent of the terror is so horrific … that we cannot go back to business as usual. We will therefore put all payments from Austrian development cooperation on ice for the time being,quot; Schallenberg told ORF radio in comments confirmed by a spokeswoman, adding the estimate of funds and projects affected.

    Schallenberg did not distinguish between Gaza, a Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, and the much larger West Bank run by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement is a rival to Hamas.

    Hamas militants killed 700 Israelis and abducted dozens in the deadliest such incursion since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago, prompting Israel to retaliate with its heaviest ever bombardment of Gaza, killing more than 400 people.

    On Sunday, neighbouring Germany debated whether it should stop aid to Palestinians following the Hamas attack, with Development Minister Svenja Schulze of the ruling Social Democrats saying the government had always been careful to check that the money was only used for peaceful ends.

    On Monday, she said no payments were currently being made but, asked by reporters if that meant Germany was freezing aid, she said: quot;I would not at this point use the word freezing, as we are in the middle of a war… The formulation does not correspond to the situation on the ground.quot;

    quot;We are in contact with our partners there and reviewing everything again,quot; she told a news conference.

    The German development ministry did not immediately reply to request for more details.

    Schallenberg said Austria would assess its projects before deciding how to proceed in consultation with partners within and outside the EU. —-Reuters

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