U.S. promises $212 million in new Gaza aid, urges peace talks


The United States on Sunday promised $212 million in immediate assistance to the devastated Gaza Strip, while also urging Palestinians and Israelis to resume peace talks.

People in Gaza, which borders Israel and Egypt, “need our help desperately — not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at an international donor conference.

He said more than 20,000 homes need to be rebuilt and 100,000 people remain displaced with winter fast approaching.

Gaza this summer endured a 50-day war, the third between ruling Hamas and Israel since 2008. The Palestinians are seeking $4 billion in total aid.

Kerry said the U.S. money, which takes American aid to the Palestinians to more than $400 million this year, would go to security, economic development, food and medicine, shelter and water and sanitation projects.

It was not immediately clear whether Kerry’s announcement would mean an overall increase in U.S. aid to the Palestinians or if his department was repackaging money already requested.

American assistance to the Palestinians has held steady at about $440 million for the past two years, the same amount the Obama administration requested from Congress for the 2015 budget year.

A State Department release said the $212 million would be delivered through the U.S. Agency for International Development, with half set aside for meeting Palestinian budgetary needs. About $75 million is devoted to Gaza recovery efforts.

Six months after the collapse of his Israeli-Palestinian mediation effort, the latest U.S. stab at forging a Mideast peace accord, Kerry renewed his call for a return to negotiations.

Kerry praised Egypt for organizing the conference, Israel for pledging to facilitate greater Palestinian economic opportunities and the U.N. for creating a monitoring system so that aid to Gaza isn’t plundered by the militant group Hamas or used to threaten the Jewish state’s security.

But Kerry said a lasting solution needs to be found and that the world doesn’t want to see a return every two years or so to a war in Gaza, a cease-fire and another expensive reconstruction effort.

“A cease-fire is not peace,” he said. “And we’ve got to find a way to get back to the table and help people make tough choices.”