Palestinian civil servants formed long lines in Gaza on Friday to receive Qatari-funded salaries, as part of efforts to ease tensions in and around the impoverished territory, even as the Palestinian Authority slammed the envoy who brought in the suitcases of cash as a “gangster” and a “smuggler.”
A total of $90 million is to be distributed in six monthly installments of $15 million, according to authorities, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules the Palestinian enclave.
Some exited post offices, where the first payment was being distributed, to show off hundred-dollar bills before the cameras, after several months of sporadic salary payments in cash-strapped Gaza.
“I came to collect $400, my salary for July,” Fadi Abu Safia, a 35-year-old government employee, said at a post office in Gaza City.
Mohamed Abed al-Hadi, 27, said he would be collecting 700 shekels ($190 dollars), “quite a sum considering the conditions we’re living in”, as compensation for an injury in the border clashes.
The cash was driven into the Palestinian enclave through Israel late Thursday by Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, according to a government source in Gaza.
Exclusive: 3 suitcases w 15 million dollars in cash entered Gaza today w the qatari envoy through Israel (Erez crossing point). The money goes to Hamas, to pay salaries of civil employees. Exclusive pic: pic.twitter.com/asmrOP0YFu
— Gal Berger גל ברגר (@galberger) November 8, 2018
Qatar has also said it would hand out $100 to each of 50,000 poor families, as well as larger sums to Palestinians wounded in clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel.
The Israeli-authorized money transfer appeared to be part of a deal that would see cash-strapped Hamas end months of often violent protests along the border in exchange for Israel easing parts of its blockade of Gaza.
Israel and Egypt largely sealed their borders with Gaza after Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, seized control in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup, citing a need to prevent weapons smuggling.
Despite the deal, there were still protests along the border Friday, although smaller than in previous weeks. In one case, demonstrators threw stones at the convoy of al-Emadi who toured the border area.
Reports said the Palestinians also threw several explosive devices at IDF soldiers and two men tried to breach the border. The army responded with tear gas and riot dispersal means. At least one Palestinian was killed and 37 Palestinians wounded, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said.
Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Ahmed Majdalani expressed the anger of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over the deal.
Emadi had “smuggled the money” into Gaza in suitcases like a “gangster,” the official said.
“The PLO did not agree to the deal facilitating the money to Hamas that way,” Majdalani, who is close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told AFP.
Such a deal harmed Egyptian efforts to reconcile Hamas and the PA and would allow the terror group to consolidate its control over Gaza, Majdalani said.
Despite Israel giving the go-ahead to bring the money into Gaza, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman criticized the move.
“This is capitulation to terrorism, and in effect Israel is buying short-term calm with money, while severely undermining long-term security,” he said, quoted in Yediot Aharonot newspaper on Friday.
In another Israeli-approved deal, Qatar has started buying additional fuel for Gaza’s sole power station, allowing planned outages to be reduced to their lowest level in recent years.
Egypt and the United Nations have been brokering indirect negotiations for a long-term truce with Israel, with which Hamas has fought three wars since 2008.
Touring the protests Friday, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar denied there was a deal with Israel, but said Hamas was working with the UN, Egypt and Qatar to end the blockade.
Deadly clashes have accompanied the major protests along the Gaza border with Israel that began on March 30, generating at times fears of a new war between Israel and Hamas.
Israel has accused Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, of leading the protests and using them as cover to carry out attacks against troops stationed the border.
Since often violent protests began on March 30, over 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests and clashes along the border, including a number of people who broke through the fence into Israel. Dozens of the fatalities were Hamas members.
One Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinian sniper.