Qatar gave over $1.1 billion to Gaza Strip from 2012-18, ministers told

Transfers said to be so high, attorney general calls meeting to ensure they aren’t in violation of sanctions against Hamas

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Security forces loyal to Hamas organize a line outside the central post office in Gaza City, on January 26, 2019, as Palestinians gather to receive financial aid from Qatar. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Security forces loyal to Hamas organize a line outside the central post office in Gaza City, on January 26, 2019, as Palestinians gather to receive financial aid from Qatar. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Qatar gave over $1.1 billion in aid to the Gaza Strip over the past six years, according to figures reportedly presented to Israeli ministers.

The money was given from 2012 to 2018, with last year’s sum totaling $200 million, the Haaretz daily reported.

Last month an “international entity” presented the figures to the security cabinet, the report said, noting that the numbers were confirmed by officials involved in the matter.

In 2018 Qatar gave Gaza $200 million for humanitarian aid, fuel, and wages for Hamas clerks. In addition it gave UNRWA, the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, $50 million, all with Israel’s approval. During the same period it gave just $39 million to other Arab states and almost nothing to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the report said.

The cabinet heard that 44 percent of the cash went to building infrastructure, 40% to education and medical projects, and the rest to Hamas and other groups in the Gaza Strip.

According to the report, the rate at which money is being funneled to Gaza has been increasing, prompting Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to hold a special review of the situation during which state legal and defense authorities were required to confirm that the transfers did not constitute a violation of Israeli and international sanctions on Hamas due to its status as a terror group.

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

Gas-rich Qatar has also committed to providing hundreds of millions more via United Nations aid organizations.

In January Qatar signed an agreement to give $500 million to various UN agencies, most of which will be used to keep UNRWA afloat in the Gaza Strip. One project will see the UN employ 180,000 residents in an effort to reduce unemployment in the Palestinian enclave, which has soared to a rate of over 40%.

UNRWA, formally known as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, ran into financial difficulties after in August 2018 the Trump administration said it would stop funding the organization. A government source who saw the figures presented at the security cabinet meeting confirmed to Haaretz that Qatari cash helped keep UNRWA operating in Gaza last year.

Some of the funding is transferred to Gaza in the form of suitcases full of bank notes. These have been be delivered monthly since November of last year.

The Qatari cash injection is part of an unofficial truce between Hamas and Israel that was supposed to see an end to months of violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border in exchange for an easing of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave. Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent the smuggling of weapons and other war materials by Hamas and other terror groups sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction.

A total of $90 million from Qatar was to be distributed in six monthly installments of $15 million, according to authorities, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas.

The money, $10 million of which goes to Hamas civil servants and the rest to needy residents in the Strip, was seen by defense analysts as key to calming tensions between Israel and the Palestinian enclave, which has seen regular violence along the border over the past 10 months.

Israel’s government has offered little information about the transfers, which have been roundly condemned by some on the right who see it as a reward for terror. A picture of money being brought into the Strip in suitcases was widely ridiculed.

After in August US President Donald Trump said he was cutting some $300 million in annual aid to UNRWA, Israel publicly supported the move but defense officials registered concern about its humanitarian impact in Gaza. Israel then sought out Qatar as a possible source to replace the US funding and keep the aid organization going, the report said.

According to the report, Hamas also gets NIS 30 million ($8.24 million) in tax it collects on fuel Israel transports to Gaza and another NIS 100 million $27.4 from taxes on goods transferred to Gaza via border crossings with Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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