Palestinians will lose essential services, says UN

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The Independent Online

Essential services such as medical treatment, water, sewage and security will be cut by stoppages in donor aid and tax payments to the Palestinian Authority ordered in the wake of Hamas's election victory, a UN report warns.

Israel has halted its monthly remittance of $60m (£34.3m) in duties it collects on behalf of the PA but the report calls into question its contention that humanitarian aid to the Palestinians can be sustained if the ministries in a Hamas-dominated Authority are bypassed.

The report from the UN's Office of Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) came as Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, who visits Britain for talks today, told Le Figaro newspaper that Israel was cutting contact with the PA and that "the survival of the Palestinian Authority as an entity is less important than the future of the peace process".

The report warns that non-payment of salaries to 153,000 PA employees will increase levels of poverty, risk basic services like health and education and, in the case of 73,000 officers in security services, cause a "rise in criminality, kidnapping and protection rackets".

According to the report, half of the Palestinian Ministry of Health's budget is financed by international aid and cuts in this funding "will hamper service delivery and prevention activities including immunisation and mother and child care".

It also foresees a possible "breakdown of refuse collection and sewage disposal systems" that would risk spreading disease.

The report argues that more than 900,000 Palestinians are dependent on a PA wage earner in the family and that this dependence is particularly high in the poorest areas. It says that "international humanitarian agencies do not have the capacity to take over the running of PA services", even where security would allow them to do so. UN and other agencies have cut back their personnel in Gaza because of security risks.

The report says that there has already been a "sharp deterioration" in humanitarian aid because of increased security measures by Israel since Hamas's election victory.

Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Israel envisaged salaries to security personnel being cut because this did not constitute a "humanitarian" need. But he said ways could be found of delivering humanitarian aid directly to essential services like hospitals.

Mr Regev said the question was whether "Hamas would allow this or, like Saddam Hussein, refuse to do so and allow the Palestinian people to suffer".