GAZA CITY — Tens of thousands of impoverished families in the Gaza Strip began receiving Qatari humanitarian funds on Thursday after Israel agreed to a new distribution mechanism involving the United Nations.
Recipients of the money lined up from early morning outside 300 distribution centers spread across the Palestinian enclave controlled by the Hamas terror group.
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi said the $100 handouts would be provided to “95,000 needy families” in Gaza via the UN.
Qatari support is considered a crucial lifeline for impoverished Palestinians living in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since 2007, seen by Israel as a necessary measure to limit the ability of Gaza’s terror groups to arm themselves.
Israel had been allowing millions in Qatari cash to flow through Israeli crossings into Gaza on a monthly basis since 2018, in order to maintain a fragile ceasefire with Hamas. As of early 2021, some $30 million in cash was being delivered in suitcases to Gaza each month through an Israeli-controlled crossing.
But Israel had objected to a resumption of the funding under the terms that existed before May’s hostilities with Gaza, claiming money was being used by terror groups rather than strictly for humanitarian needs.
The stalemate was resolved in August, when Israel and Qatar announced the approval of a new mechanism to distribute the funds, with money transferred directly to individuals by the UN.
Under the scheme, Israeli-approved recipients in Gaza will be issued UN credit cards to withdraw the funds.
The UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said the distribution would continue “throughout this week.”
Naseem al-Haddad, 47, said the $100 he received “improved his economic situation” and his prospects for finding a job.
“At this moment, I need another $1,000 in light of the difficult economic situation” in the Gaza Strip, he said.
Fayez Nabhan, a 41-year-old taxi driver and father of five, said life was “getting a little better” now that he was receiving aid again.
The renewed policy has sparked controversy within Israel, with critics accusing the government of bowing to Hamas pressure.
Naftali Bennett has vowed to end such deliveries since becoming prime minister in June and the new government has excoriated former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of “suitcases full of cash” for the Hamas employees.