A Hamas official on Tuesday called Israel’s decision to block the entry of Qatari funds to the Gaza Strip later this week “a crime” that could stoke further violence along the frontier.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Tuesday that a tranche of $15 million set to be transferred to the Strip the next day be halted, after Israeli soldiers were shot at on two separate occasions.
“Netanyahu’s decision to prevent its entry is a crime that will push Gaza toward an explosion,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Times of Israel.
The money, $10 million of which goes to Hamas civil servants and the rest to the needy in the Strip, is seen as key to calming months of tensions between Israel and the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Hamas terror group.
A total of $90 million in six installments is slated to enter the Strip, as part of a tacit ceasefire agreement. A total of $30 million has been transferred thus far.
“These funds are to support institutions and people in the Gaza Strip,” the official said.
The move came after an IDF officer was injured by sniper fire on the border of the restive enclave, and a Hamas fighter was killed in a reprisal shelling by Israel. Earlier, troops along the border were shot at, and Israel shelled a Hamas post. Nobody was injured in that exchange.
Israel’s military closed areas near the border to civilian traffic on Tuesday evening, fearing further violence.
“Following the recent incidents in the Gaza Strip, and with consultation with security officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to allow the transfer of Qatari money to the Gaza Strip tomorrow,” an Israeli diplomatic official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The transfer of the funds to Hamas, which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, is widely unpopular in Israel. The announcement by the diplomatic official was a rare admission by the government that it had indeed approved the payments.
The funds were expected to be transferred on Wednesday, after they were initially stalled by Israel last week in response to another flare up in cross-border violence, Qatar’s envoy to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, told the Reuters news service.
Since March, Palestinians have been holding regular protests on the border. Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using the demonstrations as a cover for attacks on troops and attempts to breach the security fence.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.