Qatari Aid to Reach Palestinians in Gaza
Despite resistance from Hamas and Israel, $15 million of Qatari aid will be distributed to needy Palestinian families living in the Gaza Strip. Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi, head of the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, is overseeing the transfer of aid to 940,000 families, each receiving $400 in four installments over the next four months.
This aid was originally part of an agreement made in November between Qatar and Hamas, the governing authority in the Gaza Strip. The agreement outlined $150 million from Qatar to fund the wages of civil servants as well as shipments of fuel to Gaza. Hamas’ ability to pay its civil servants has dwindled from years of fighting with Israel, especially with one of Israel’s core strategies being a blockade of the Gaza Strip that drains the area and its authorities of resources. Since November, two dispersals of $15 million each have been fulfilled.
Disagreements between Israel, Qatar, and Hamas have hindered the latest installment of Qatari aid. The dispersal of funds requires Israeli approval, as they must cross Israeli territory to reach the Strip. In late January, after altercations on the Israeli-Gaza border left an Israeli soldier wounded, Israel blocked the passage of aid. Prime Minister Netanyahu eventually relented, following recommendations from Israeli military officials, and approved the transfer.
However, Hamas officials claimed Israel was not abiding by the original agreement, having postponed aid from reaching Palestinians for more than two weeks past its scheduled delivery. The agreement has been criticized by Gazans as an Israeli attempt to reduce the appearance of Palestinian suffering before the upcoming election. Gazans further accuse Hamas of forgoing its values and surrendering to Israel in order to garner Qatari aid.
With such criticism heightened after Israel hindered the third installment, Hamas rejected the $15 million from Qatar. Hamas official Khalil al-Haya accused Israel of trying to “blackmail the Palestinian people” and “embarrass Qatar.” He stated that he refuses to let Gaza be used as a pawn in the upcoming Israeli elections.
Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi is now cooperating with the United Nations to distribute humanitarian aid to the area. The aid will fund infrastructure projects and needy families in the Gaza Strip. However, it will not contribute to the wages of Hamas officials. The new route through the UN allows aid to be distributed without Israeli cooperation, which has proved difficult in light of of rising conflict along the Israeli-Gaza border.
Palestinian protests have flared along the border since the US embassy relocated to Jerusalem in March 2018. Hundreds of Palestinians have died and thousands more have been injured in this uptick, in which the Israeli army has relied on gunfire and teargas to repel protestors. Working with the UN may also help curtail violence along the border carried out by fundamentalist Palestinian groups like Islamic Jihad. Their activity has spiked in recent months in a show of opposition to Hamas negotiating with Israel.