In first since virus emerged in Gaza, banks deliver Qatari grants to poor

Doha says $100 bills to be distributed to 100,000 families; Hamas instructs beneficiaries to maintain distance of 1.5 meters from each another

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinians receive their financial aid as part of $480 million in aid allocated by Qatar, at a post office in Gaza City on May 19, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians receive their financial aid as part of $480 million in aid allocated by Qatar, at a post office in Gaza City on May 19, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Postal banks in the Gaza Strip began distributing the latest installment of small grants from Qatar on Tuesday morning to impoverished Palestinian families, Palestinian news sites based in the coastal enclave reported.

In the past year, the banks have distributed such Qatari grants several times to tens of thousands of needy families in the small territory.

Doha has agreed to provide the grants to poor families in Gaza as part of ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, including Hamas.

Photos posted by the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center’s Twitter account showed lines of Palestinians at the banks, waiting to receive their payouts while maintaining a significant distance between one another.

Mohammed al-Emadi, the head of the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee, said in a statement Monday that 100,000 needy families would receive payouts in the form of $100 bills, starting on Tuesday.

He said the process of distributing the funds to all of the families would take two weeks.

Since it first started doling out grants to poor families, the Reconstruction Committee has announced varying numbers of beneficiaries. For example, in February, it said it would give 120,000 needy families in Gaza payouts; in January, it said it would grant funds to 70,000.

An official in the Reconstruction Committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity in late November 2019, said that the number of beneficiaries has fluctuated based on “the decision of the [Qatari] ambassador,” without elaborating.

The Hamas-run Communications Ministry in Gaza announced on Monday that beneficiaries would need to undertake several precautionary measures against the possible spread of the coronavirus when they come to the postal banks to receive their grants.

It instructed them to bring their own pens to sign forms, maintain a distance of 1.5 meters between one another and inform authorities by phone if they were experiencing flu-like symptoms. The ministry also recommended they wear masks and said the number of people simultaneously allowed in the banks would be limited.

Ten people in Gaza have been infected with the virus, but they all have been placed in isolation and have not mixed with the broader population, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Since October 2018, Qatar has also spent millions of dollars every month to pay for fuel to power Gaza’s sole power plant and back other projects.

Qatar’s Emadi, who has frequently visited Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, maintains contacts with the the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers and Israeli officials.

Fifty-three percent of Palestinians in Gaza live in poverty, a June 2018 United Nations report said. Eighty percent depend on international aid, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the main international organization that provides health, education and other services to Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

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