The United States has blocked the transfer of Qatari funds earmarked for the salaries of civil servants hired by Hamas in Gaza, The Times of Israel has learned.
A diplomatic source in the Gulf state, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Qatar had transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to Arab Bank for the salaries of some 44,000 Hamas civil servants. Those civil servants — employed by Hamas in Gaza since its takeover of the Strip in 2007 – were rendered jobless by the unity agreement with Fatah last month.
But the money was never processed by Arab Bank and delivered to Hamas, the source told The Times of Israel, due to pressure from the Americans, who consider Hamas a terror organization.
“This is strange, since funds from Qatar have never been blocked in the past,” the source said, referring to the $400 million aid package pledged by Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa during his visit to Gaza in October 2012.
Hamas’s deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouk lambasted Arab Bank for neglecting to process the funds in comments posted on his Facebook page June 28.
“Our thanks to Qatar, which has transferred the funds to Arab Bank,” wrote Abu Marzouk, adding sarcastically that “with excessive Arabness Arab Bank has refused to receive the money. PA President [Mahmoud Abbas] and the national unity government continue to discuss the mechanism, but there are those who continue to insist on receiving orders from the outside or implementing them before they are spoken.”
The US State Department and the Arab Bank did not respond to requests for comments on the matter.
The salary crisis, which has plagued Hamas for months, compounded the most severe financial pitfall in the organization’s history, caused by significant loss of revenue by the destruction of smuggling tunnels on the Egyptian border.
Abu Marzouk and former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh have cited the financial crisis as a central factor in the current violent flareup, harshly criticizing the PA and Abbas for neglecting to pay Gaza’s civil servants as stipulated — they claim — by a unity agreement signed with Fatah in Cairo in May 2012. Hamas has demanded the transfer of the salaries as a condition for a ceasefire with Israel in the conflagration — known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge — that has been raging in the last week.
Shortly after the swearing in of the unity government in Ramallah on June 2, Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani pledged millions in aid to Hamas, responding to an appeal by Haniyeh. Secretary of State John Kerry said the US would cooperate with the technocrat government headed by Rami Hamdallah, while closely monitoring its compliance with the Quartet’s principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of the previous agreements.
Qatar has long played the roll of patron to Hamas, investing billions of dollars in reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip and hosting the movement’s political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal in Doha.
Speaking to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, an Israeli security official said that the funds were not transferred to Hamas “due to international sanctions” imposed on the movement, but would not elaborate. He called Hamas’s decision to break a 20-month ceasefire last week by launching rockets at Israel “an internal Palestinian issue that has been thrust upon Israel.”