A Qatari delegation led by envoy Mohammed al-Emadi entered the Gaza Strip late Sunday with a fresh delivery of cash for the beleaguered coastal enclave, according to Palestinian media reports.
The delegation had been expected Saturday, but was reportedly delayed by a day due to discussions with Israeli officials on issues relating to the truce deal aimed at keeping calm along the border.
According to the reports, deputy Qatari ambassador Khaled al-Khardan entered Gaza on Sunday. Later Sunday evening he returned to the Erez border crossing where he was given the $25 million to take back into the Strip.
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi also traveled to Gaza later Sunday. It was not clear why the delegation split and he did not bring in the money directly as he has in the past.
The cash will be distributed to needy families in Gaza on Monday, starting at 8:00 AM, the reports said. It is also used to fund UN-run work programs. The cash injections were originally used to pay salaries of Hamas employees, but this was stopped after political opposition in Israel.
Al-Emadi is also expected to brief Hamas leaders on his talks with Israel.
Earlier Saturday, Hamas sources told the Arabic 21 news site that Israel was demanding the terror group renew talks on returning the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers in exchange for quiet in Gaza. The sources claimed Hamas had refused the demand, according to a report by Channel 13 news.
Hamas is believed to be holding the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies were captured by the terror group when they were killed in the Strip during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
The terror group also holds captive Israeli civilians Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
The report added that UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov was working to prevent further deterioration in the situation between Israel and Hamas.
Mladenov reportedly conveyed a message from Hamas to Israel that the terror group placed full responsibility for any future escalation on Jerusalem, saying that it was not fulfilling its part of the unofficial ceasefire agreement. Mladenov has told Hamas that Israel is interested in maintaining quiet.
Saturday’s developments came after a fresh surge in violence, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory air force strikes, and a wave of arson balloons sent into Israel.
Several thousand Palestinians gathered along the border for weekly protests Friday, with several hundred taking part in violent riots. Rioters threw explosive devices and rocks at forces and also tried to storm the fence in one place.
Troops responded with tear gas and live fire in some cases. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 46 people were wounded.
Arson balloons sparked at least seven blazes, including two large ones near Kibbutz Nahal Oz and Kibbutz Kfar Aza. Another fire raged in the Be’eri nature reserve. Firefighting teams and local residents managed to extinguish them, the fire service said.
Israeli Air Force jets carried out multiple airstrikes in the Strip early Friday, hours after a rocket hit a religious school in southern Israel, causing damage but no injuries. The military said in a statement that fighter jets and other aircraft attacked “several terror targets, including terror infrastructure in military compounds.”
The rocket, which did not explode, struck the outer face of the yeshiva in Sderot, sending debris onto the sidewalk. A number of tempered-glass windows were also broken. Most students had gone home for the weekend, but several people were still inside the school at the time.
The rocket attacks led to growing calls among politicians for a major military operation, including assassinating leaders of Hamas.
No Palestinian group has taken responsibility for the attacks, but the military generally holds Hamas responsible for any violence emanating from the enclave.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Friday told Mladenov that Hamas did not know who fired rockets at Israel in the past week, and was conducting an investigation into the launches.
Tensions with Gaza have been steadily rising in recent weeks, with Israel blocking Gazan fishermen from access to the sea in response to multiple incendiary balloons being launched over the border.
Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, has complained that Israel is not fully implementing an unofficial ceasefire deal between the sides, while Jerusalem has accused Palestinian terror groups of breaching the understandings.