U.S. to Give Medical Aid to Palestinians Through U.N., Aid Groups

The United States bowed to pressure from its allies on Tuesday and agreed to support a new program to temporarily funnel additional humanitarian aid directly to the Palestinian people.

A statement by Mideast peacemakers, issued after a day of closed-door diplomatic meetings, did not suggest precisely how much or what kind of aid they would provide. But the agreement seemed to underscore a concern that months of withholding most aid from the Palestinians, part of an effort to pressure the new Hamas-led government toward a more accommodating stance with Israel, was harming the Palestinian people.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the European Union would take the lead in the new effort. The United Nations and Russia, the other partners in the Quartet peacemaking group along with the U.S., also endorsed the program.

"The thrust of this is the international community is still trying to respond to the needs of the Palestinian people," Rice said.

The U.S. and European Union have cut off much of the aid that had flowed in the past to Palestinian programs to prevent any of it from helping Hamas, the militant Islamic group that has conducted numerous terrorist attacks.