Alexander de Croo
Alexander de Croo Reuters

Belgium on Wednesday pledged to allocate $23 million to UNRWA, the UN agency for “Palestinian refugees”, following the U.S. decision to cut by half the funding it provides to the agency.

In a statement, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he had decided to allocate the $23 million over a period of three years.

“Belgium is one of the few donors that provides this kind of multi-annual funding. Considering the financial difficulties which UNRWA currently faces, the Belgian annual contribution will be disbursed immediately,” said the statement.

“I have a lot of respect for UNRWA’s work, which has to operate in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. Living conditions in Gaza, Syria, the West bank and elsewhere in the region are particularly tough. For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy. With the help of UNRWA half a million of Palestine children are able to go to school. This prevents them from falling prey to radicalization and extreme violence,” added De Croo.

A State Department official said on Tuesday that the United States had sent $60 million to keep UNRWA in operation but withheld a further $65 million.

"There is a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of UNRWA, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded," the official said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert later said the U.S. “would like to see some reforms be made” in UNRWA, and stressed, “This is not aimed at punishing anyone.”

The American cut came following recent tweets by President Donald Trump in which he questioned the wisdom of providing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority given their refusal to resume peace talks with Israel.

The United States is the largest single donor to UNRWA, providing approximately a fourth of the organization's budget.

For years, UNRWA has been a target for criticism in light of Hamas's activity in its educational institutions and the use of its facilities by Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations in Gaza.

UNRWA was documented storing Hamas rockets and weapons "designed to kill Israeli citizens" in its schools, a fact which the UNRWA chief admitted himself.

In addition, the organization has actively taken part in inciting anti-Semitic violence.