Hamas on Friday called on the UN to speed up a plan to funnel Qatari aid into the Palestinian enclave, part of a reported Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel.
After clashes between Israel and Hamas last month after Hamas fired a rocket deep into Israel, destroying a house and injuring 7 people, the ceasefire was hammered out amid fears of escalation.
Hamas said the truce would see Israel ease its blockade of the Strip in exchange for quiet. Israel has not publicly commented on the reported agreement. Israel maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, a terror organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, from bringing in weapons, rockets and other material used to construct attack tunnels and other fortifications.
Among measures to help Gazans was a plan to resume blocked aid from Qatar through a UN cash for work programs
In November, the Gulf state, which is a long-time Hamas ally, committed to around $15 million a month in aid over six months.
Part of the funds were originally used to pay salaries of Hamas employees, but this was stopped after political opposition in Israel.
Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, told AFP Friday that the alternative plan was stalled at the UN.
“The Qatari funds exist and the funds allocated by the World Bank (for the cash for work programs) exist,” he said.
“But the pace of the implementation of the United Nations mechanisms is slow,” he said, adding an appeal to UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov. “We call on the United Nations and Mr Mladenov to accelerate the implementation.”
Two million Palestinians live in impoverished Gaza, crammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.
Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas, has blockaded the enclave for more than a decade, and Egypt often closes Gaza’s only other gateway to the outside world.
On April 1 Israel expanded the fishing zone around Gaza, increasing it in one area to the largest distance in years, in what Hamas officials said was the first step in implementing its “understandings” with the Jewish state.
“The understandings are in place,” al-Hayya said.”Some of them are going well, such as fishing.”
Earlier, al-Hayya said that Israel has agreed to lift restrictions on importing into the Gaza Strip many “dual-use” goods as a part of ceasefire understandings with terror groups there, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said.
For the past several years, Israel has heavily restricted the entry into Gaza of products that it labels “dual-use,” meaning that they can be utilized for both civilian and military purposes. Palestinians in Gaza have long been required to receive special permits to import goods that Israel categorizes as dual-use.
“We extracted from the occupation the lifting of the restrictions and the ban…on 30 percent of these materials,” Hayya told the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV in a long interview late Wednesday.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, declined to confirm or deny Hayya’s comments.
“We do not respond to foreign reports,” COGAT said in an email. The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond to a request for comment.
According to a World Bank report that was issued on Wednesday, there are 118 goods that Israel classifies as dual-use in relation to Gaza and 56 to the West Bank. Those pertaining to Gaza include several chemicals, machinery including drilling equipment, jet skis and many other materials and products.
The report said World Bank estimates found that “easing dual-use restrictions could bring additional 6 percent growth in the West Bank economy and 11 percent in Gaza by 2025, compared to a scenario with continue restrictions.”
Hayya also warned that if Israel did not abide by the recent ceasefire understandings, Palestinians in Gaza would renew launching incendiary and explosive-laden balloons into the Jewish state, nighttime protests in the border region between the Jewish state and the coastal enclave, and other measures.
“[Israel] not abiding….would mean the rough tools would return. Everything and more than the rough tools would return,” he said. “We say that we will not accept the siege staying in place.”
“Rough tools” refer to the launching of incendiary and explosive-laden balloons into Israel and nighttime protests in the border region between Israel and Gaza, which have included setting off small explosions, lighting tires on fire and pointing lasers at IDF soldiers.
Since early April, the launching of balloons and nighttime protests have essentially been halted.
Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar recently brokered ceasefire understandings between Israel and Hamas, which Hebrew media reports have said include an end to violence emanating from the Gaza in exchange for the Jewish state easing some of its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.