Qatar pledged Gaza aid won’t fund Hamas, US says
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Qatar pledged Gaza aid won’t fund Hamas, US says

As Gaza begins receiving assistance to rebuild its ruined infrastructure, state department says Doha’s influence on group useful

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday, October 12, 2014, during the Gaza donor conference. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday, October 12, 2014, during the Gaza donor conference. (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

The Obama administration says it has received assurances from the Arab nation Qatar that its assistance to the Palestinians will not reach Hamas.

“Qatar has pledged financial support that would be directed to the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Julia Frifield, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, wrote in a November 21 letter to Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.) first revealed this week by the Free Beacon news website. “Qatar assured us that its assistance would not go to Hamas.”

In July, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Roskam had written to the US secretaries of State and the Treasury expressing “grave concerns” about the State Department’s cooperation with Qatar in its bid to end the fighting, noting the emirate’s past support for Hamas.

In her letter, Frifield noted the continuing US policy of not dealing with Hamas, but added that Qatar was valuable in part because of its influence with the group.

“We need countries that have leverage over the leaders of Hamas to help put a cease-fire in place,” she said.

Part of Hamas’s leadership is headquartered in Qatar. Frifield also said that the United States is cooperating with Qatar to clamp down on terrorist financing in the country, noting that disruption of such financing remains “inconsistent.”

Qatar has pledged $150 million to the Palestinian Authority in debt relief and additional funds to help the people of the Gaza Strip.

Calls have circulated in the US Congress to isolate Qatar — a state that has polished its pro-Western image in recent years, welcoming in foreign universities, backing the global news channel Al-Jazeera and prepping to host the 2022 World Cup — for its championing of Hamas.

Since Hamas assumed control in Gaza in 2007, Qatar has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the territory and backed Hamas diplomatically.

Once cordial ties between Israel and Qatar — the first Persian Gulf state to establish ties with the Jewish state in 1996 — became tense in 2007 when Doha became one of the only countries to back Hamas, after the group booted the more moderate Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup. In 2012, its then-emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, became the first head of state to visit Gaza under Hamas rule, pledging to raise $400 million toward reconstruction.

Qatar’s rationale — shared by Erdogan, the Turkish leader — was that Islamist groups were proliferating and inevitably would play a role in the region, and therefore it was important for allies of Western nations to maintain ties.

By this summer and the Gaza war, Israel was labeling Qatar a terrorist haven, in part because it is harboring Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

On November 22 the UN announced that it was starting to provide building materials to residents of the Gaza Strip whose homes were damaged during the summer’s war. It said financial assistance will also be offered to home owners for the repairs.

According to a statement by UN Middle East peace process coordinator Robert Serry, the action coordinated between Israel, the UN and Palestinian officials will aid some 25,000 home owners.

Addressing Israeli concern that building materials intended for home reconstruction will be used by terror groups to rebuild tunnels and other terror infrastructure, the UN stressed that “materials procured under the mechanism may only be used for their intended purpose… the United Nations will undertake spot checks to monitor compliance.”

It added that “special precautions have been taken to avoid the misuse of personal information of those wishing to access the mechanism.”

The UN noted that it still lacked the resources needed to aid all those in need, and urged countries who had pledged support at the Cairo conference on Gaza to fulfil their obligations.

In October delegates representing 50 nations at the international conference promised $2.7 billion to rebuild the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

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