U.S. earmarks $50 million in new humanitarian relief for the Gaza Strip

(JTA) – The United States announced $50 million in new humanitarian assistance for the Gaza Strip.

The aid announced Monday by the U.S. consul in Jerusalem, Donald Blome, will include the “distribution of food items (such as eggs and cheese) and non-food items (such as school uniforms, bedding, and cleaning supplies),” a consulate statement said, as well as investment in the employment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip through paid internships and job training, among other means.

Titled “Envision Gaza 2020,” the assistance will be administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development and Catholic Relief Services. The United States, which provides $400 million to $500 million a year in assistance to the Palestinians through the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and other agencies, bans any direct dealings with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Blome announced the initiative at an event at his Jerusalem home celebrating Palestinian agriculture in Gaza through dishes created by a chef from the strip using produce imported from there. He said Gaza faces “significant challenges” in the wake of the destruction wrought by the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, and called for greater co-operation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in order to facilitate produce exports from Gaza.

Blome alluded to difficulties created by security measures Israel imposes on getting products in and out of Gaza.

“Gazan farmers must contend with some of the highest shipping costs in the world, long wait times for their produce under the blazing sun, and phytosanitary and quality standards enforced by multiple entities,” he said, using the technical term for pest and disease controls on agricultural products. “There is a need to balance the legitimate security needs of the Government of Israel with the necessity of building Gaza’s economy.”

Representatives of the Israeli and Palestinian ministries of agriculture attended the event.

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