Hamas officials claim Netanyahu set to advance aid projects in Gaza — report

Sources in terror group say PM has agreed to fix power grid, build industrial zones in coastal enclave; report says Qatari cash handouts to resume next month

A Hamas-appointed government employee in Gaza signs a document to receive 50 percent of her long-overdue salary from funds donated by Qatar, while others wait in the queue, at the main Gaza Post Office, in Gaza City, December 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Hamas-appointed government employee in Gaza signs a document to receive 50 percent of her long-overdue salary from funds donated by Qatar, while others wait in the queue, at the main Gaza Post Office, in Gaza City, December 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Hamas officials on Tuesday claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed willingness, through international mediators, to advance humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip, including improving the enclave’s electricity infrastructure, according to a Lebanese report.

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 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.

Sources in the Gaza-based terror group told Al-Akhbar on Tuesday that “the Egyptian and Qatar interlocutors delivered messages that Netanyahu has renewed his commitment to the understandings and approved the implementation of the humanitarian projects that were delayed until after the elections, including the projects to improve the electricity sector and build industrial zones along the Gaza Strip’s borders.”

The report also said Qatari cash handouts will resume next month in the Gaza Strip, with some $100 apiece granted to 100,000 poor families in Gaza.

Another 10,000 temporary jobs in Gaza, through the UN, will be announced next month as well, according to Al-Akhbar.

A home in the central Israeli town of Mishmeret that was destroyed in a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on March 25, 2019. (Israel Police)

After clashes between Israel and Hamas last month after Palestinians fired a rocket deep into Israel, destroying a house and injuring seven people, the unconfirmed 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 longtime Hamas ally, committed to around $15 million a month in aid over six months.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an event in Jerusalem honoring the families of Israeli soldiers killed in battle, on April 14, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Part of the funds were originally used to pay salaries of Hamas employees, but this was stopped after political opposition in Israel.

The Hamas sources said mediators are working to disburse the Qatari funds for government employee salaries, according to Al-Akhbar.

Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, told AFP Friday that the funds were held up by 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.”

A Palestinian man transports bags of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 20, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP

Two million Palestinians live in impoverished Gaza, crammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.

Egypt and Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas, have blockaded the enclave for more than a decade.

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.

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.

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.

Palestinians take part in a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 19, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

“[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.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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