Gaza families begin receiving Qatari aid payments

Hamas rulers say they received $30 million from Doha, whose leaders are reportedly threatening to cut off assistance if Israel annexes West Bank lands

Palestinians receive financial aid payments from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, on June 27, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Palestinians receive financial aid payments from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, on June 27, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip started receiving Qatari aid payments of $100 on Saturday morning, an AFP correspondent said, part of millions in support from the Gulf emirate.

The Hamas communications ministry said on Friday that it had received $30 million in aid from Qatar, a rare Middle East ally.

A third of the amount would be distributed to 100,000 needy families, it added.

Hundreds of Palestinians queued up at post offices in the impoverished Gaza Strip on Saturday morning to receive the $100 allocated per family, an AFP correspondent said.

As part of an informal truce deal between Hamas and Israel in November 2018, the Jewish state allows millions of dollars in Qatari aid to enter the Strip.

Gaza has been under an Israeli (and Egyptian) blockade since 2007, when Islamist terror group Hamas took control of the Palestinian enclave in a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent arms from reaching Gaza that could be used to attack the Jewish state.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Around 80 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are reliant on international aid, according to the United Nations.

Palestinians receive financial aid from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, on November 27, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

According to an Israeli television report Tuesday, Qatar is threatening to cut off the financial aid to Gaza if Israel goes ahead with annexing parts of the West Bank, in an apparent bid to pressure Jerusalem to rethink the plan.

Qatari payments to the impoverished, Hamas-controlled Strip have been key to maintaining quiet there, as well as the unofficial truce between Israel and the terror group, and Qatar is reluctant to be seen as enabling annexation, Channel 13 reported.

Quoting several Western diplomats, the report said Qatar has conveyed its message through multiple channels over the past two weeks, including in a recent meeting of donor countries to the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials were present in that meeting, held over Zoom.

Under the coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the premier can begin on July 1 moving forward with annexing the roughly 30 percent of the West Bank slated for Israel under US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal. The proposal, which the Palestinian Authority has rejected out of hand, envisions a Palestinian state in the rest of the territory.

The plan has faced widespread and harsh criticism from much of the international community, with several Gulf States warning it could jeopardize their cooperation with Israel and Jordan warning it could spark conflict.

Palestinians protest Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, on June 27, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Last week, Israel reportedly approved the transfer of $50 million by Qatar to Gaza as part of an apparent deal to halt escalating tensions with terror groups in the Strip.

The apparent deal came despite bitter criticism of such arrangements by Gantz throughout the past three national election campaigns, in which the opponent-turned-ally of Netanyahu accused the government of paying “protection money” to terror groups by allowing the transfer of millions of dollars of Qatari aid.

The generally restive Gaza border has been calm in recent months, following a large flare-up in February in which Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel after the Israel Defense Forces killed one of its members as he was planting a bomb along the border. The IDF responded to the rocket attacks with a series of punishing airstrikes on the group’s bases in the Strip.

A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli airstrike at Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, after Palestinian terrorists fired two rockets toward Israel, on June 27, 2020. (Said Khatib/AFP)

However, the military wing of Hamas has threatened annexation would be a “declaration of war” and on Friday Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired two missiles toward Israel.

The IDF said it struck Hamas-linked Gaza sites in response, reiterating it holds the terror group responsible for any violence emanating from the coastal enclave.

Hamas, meanwhile, said the Israeli response to the rocket fire “increases our resolve to deal with the annexation plan.”

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