The State Department threatened to end the work of non-governmental organizations in Gaza unless Hamas rescinds demands to audit the finances of American charities, the New York Times reports. American and European law forbids NGOs from cooperating with a designated terrorist organization, which could lead to the suspension of a large part of the territory's aid.
"These organizations do not recognize and do not want to recognize the Palestinian law. We do not kneel down to any threat," said Taher al-Nounou, a spokesman for the Hamas government. The State Department's threat covers $110 million in aid to Gaza. "Any organization that wants to operate in the Palestinian territories must respect the laws."
The tensions between Hamas and foreign charities began months ago, when Hamas' ruling government demanded more oversight of charity activities in Gaza. The group instructed NGOS to register with the central government, pay a fee, and submit their records. The demands stemmed from Hamas' concern that foreign money could be diverted "for political or intelligence-gathering uses." Ultimately, many charities complied with initial demands, but are now unprepared to allow Hamas access to their financial records.
American officials aren't the only ones upset. In July, Norway's government sent Hamas a letter saying it was "clear under Palestinian law that the competent authority to monitor the activities of the NGOs is the P.A. Ministry of Interior in Ramallah." If Hamas pushed for more access, NGOs "might suspend their operations, which will affect significant parts of Gaza's population who depend on outside assistance." Norway's government also said it would hold Hamas responsible for the suspension of aid.