In a surprise move, Qatar’s envoy to the Gaza Strip said Sunday his government would cut its funding for fuel shipments to Gaza, needed to power the enclave’s lone power station, by half, Army Radio reported Sunday.
The statement comes within hours of Israel reportedly restoring shipments of fuel it cut last week over a spate of rocket fire and other violence from the enclave.
Qatar is signed on a contract, together with the UN, to supply three million liters of fuel weekly for electricity production in Gaza through the end of 2019. If the reports are correct, the envoy, Mohammed al-Emadi, appears to have unilaterally withdrawn from the agreement, telling Hamas officials on Sunday that Doha would only pay for 1.5 million liters each week.
The decision could reduce electricity supply in the territory to just six hours a day, Army Radio calculated on Sunday morning.
The reports appear to have caught both Israel and Hamas by surprise. Israel’s COGAT, the Defense Ministry agency that manages contact with Palestinian society and civilian agencies, said it was looking into the reports and had reached out to officials in the Qatari government for clarification.
On Saturday, the Palestinian news site Sawa reported that on Sunday Israel would end its own cutback of fuel supplies to Gaza, which it imposed on August 26 after a three-week spike in rocket fire and attempted infiltrations into Israel by gunmen from the Strip.
The regular supply to Gaza’s power station was resumed Sunday morning.
Egyptian mediators told Hamas officials at a meeting in Cairo on Friday that Israel would resume the supply if the weekend passed without violence. That afternoon, some 6,000 Gazan protesters gathered at the border fence, with several throwing grenades and improvised explosive devices at IDF soldiers, and four were arrested by Israeli troops after attempting to jump the border fence carrying knives and a grenade, according to the IDF. One soldier was lightly hurt in the violence.
Both Israel and Egypt enforce a number of restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip from arming or building military infrastructure.
On Friday, Lebanon’s al-Akhbar newspaper reported that Israel had offered Hamas economic concessions and an easing of the blockade in return for a long-term ceasefire. According to the report, the proposal was made by Egyptian intelligence officials during the meeting with top Hamas members.
While making the proposal, the Egyptians reportedly warned officials from the terror group that Israel was serious in its threats to carry out a wide-ranging military campaign if the violence continues.
Hamas said it was not responsible for the recent firing of rockets from the coastal enclave toward Israel, blaming “rogue elements.” Israel maintains that Hamas, as the Strip’s ruler, is ultimately responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory, while saying that it believes the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad is instigating the current unrest.
Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket toward southern Israel on Wednesday night, prompting a retaliatory Israeli raid. The projectile failed to cross the border and landed inside the enclave, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
In response, an Israeli military aircraft bombed a Hamas observation post along the border of the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF said. No injuries were reported on either side.
The rocket launch from Gaza triggered sirens in the Israeli community of Netiv Ha’asara, north of the Strip. The attack interrupted a night-time swimming event that the community was hosting at the time, sending dozens of children rushing to bomb shelters.
On Tuesday, terrorists in the Strip fired four mortar shells toward Israel. Three landed on the Gaza side of the border and one struck an open field in southern Israel. In response, an Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas observation post east of Juhor ad-Dik in the central Gaza Strip, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
On Sunday night, three rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, causing some damage but no injuries. The rockets prompted reprisal Israeli strikes, and the Israeli announcement on Monday that it had reduced fuel shipments to the territory.
Last week’s mortar attacks also came amid heightened tensions throughout the Middle East, as Israel squared off against Iran and its proxies in multiple countries, taking responsibility for an airstrike in Syria and being blamed for others in Lebanon and Iraq as well as an exploding drone incident which damaged a Hezbollah complex in Beirut.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate for the Syria attack, which killed some of its members.