EU says no Palestinian aid going to Hamas, programmes to continue

European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis addresses a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union said on Tuesday a review of its development aid to Palestinians, ordered after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, found no evidence of funds going to the militant group and that its assistance would continue.

The EU is the biggest provider of such aid to Palestinians. It has earmarked some 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for its programmes for the period between 2021 and 2024.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, announced the review two days after Hamas militants attacked Israel from Gaza, killing 1,200 people and taking around 240 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Officials said the review was ordered as a precaution, not because they had any indications EU cash was going to Hamas.

"The review found no indications of EU money having directly or indirectly benefited the terrorist organisation Hamas," said Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis.

Development aid is used for projects designed to have a long-term impact, such as paying the salaries of officials at the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, and the work of U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

It is separate from humanitarian aid, meant for urgent needs for essentials such as food, water and shelter.

"The review found that the control system in place has worked. As a result payment to Palestinian beneficiaries and UNRWA will continue without any delays," Dombrovskis told reporters.

The Commission said, however, that it would not proceed with plans to provide 75.6 million euros ($82.5 million) for Gaza infrastructure projects that were not "feasible in the current context". That money will now go to other projects.

Israel launched heavy bombardment of Gaza after the Oct.7 attacks as part of a campaign to defeat Hamas.

The enclave's Hamas-run government says at least 13,300 Palestinians have been confirmed killed - including at least 5,600 children - during Israel's aerial blitz and invasion.

($1 = 0.9168 euros)

(Reporting by Andrew Gray and Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Bart Meijer and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)