TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – New York based Human Rights Watch criticized the US administration’s decision to stop US aid to United Nations for Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), describing it as blackmailing Palestinians for the food and education of refugee children.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that “It is vindictive for the US government to deprive the UN of money to feed and educate Palestinian children in order to blackmail the Palestinian Authority into rejoining Trump administration-led peace negotiations.

“If the US government proceeds with this bullying tactic, other governments should step in to fill the gap so that programs aren’t forced to shut down.”

Human Rights Watch said that the US government is withholding at least US$125 million in funds it was expected to provide to the UNRWA, the Palestinian News Network (PNN) reported.

UNRWA agency provides services to 5.3 million refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, and operates 711 schools and 143 health clinics.

The Axios news website, citing three unnamed Western diplomats, said on Friday that the sum — a third of the annual US donation to the UNRWA which was expected to be delivered on Monday — was frozen until the White House finishes its review of aid to the PA.

Last Tuesday, Trump, in a number of tweets, threatened to cut Washington’s aid to Palestinians, alleging that the PA was no longer willing to engage in the so-called peace talks with Israel.

“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” he said at the time.

Meanwhile, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that his agency had not been “informed directly of a formal decision either way by the US administration.”

Tensions between the US and Palestinians started escalating after Trump announced last month that Washington would recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of Israel and would relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

Palestinians condemned the decision, stressing that the US has no credibility as a Middle East peace broker.

The dramatic shift in Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the city triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

On December 21, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Quds as the Israeli capital.

Quds remains at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians hoping that the eastern part of the city would eventually serve as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state.