Qatar payouts to Hamas to resume after delay by Israel, diplomat says

Doha envoy says Netanayhu froze cash transfer of $15 million for civil servants’ salaries, due to renewed rocket fire from Gaza

A Palestinian man shows his money after receiving his salary in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 9, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
A Palestinian man shows his money after receiving his salary in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 9, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Qatar’s third $15 million installment in payouts to Hamas civil servants in the Gaza Strip will be transferred later this week, after it was initially withheld by Israel in response to a flare up in cross-border violence, a Qatari diplomat said on Sunday.

Qatar’s envoy to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, told Reuters the latest cash transfer that was due to arrive last week would be in the Palestinian territory by Wednesday.

“Due to the violence on the border, the Israeli government postponed it. The agreement is subject to there not being too much violence, so last Friday they (Israel) approved to do the third tranche,” Emadi said from his office in Doha.

Unlike the previous times, Emadi said he would not personally take the cash to Gaza via Israel as in the previous two rounds of payments. He told Reuters that a new system has been arranged, but declined to comment on the details.

COGAT, the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, also declined to comment to Reuters on the details of the transfer.

Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi (C) leaves a press conference at the Dar al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, on February 19, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

The Qatari payments began last year as a way of extricating the Strip from a humanitarian crisis amid a spiral of violence. The cash injection is part of an unofficial truce between Hamas and Israel that aimed to end months of violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border in exchange for an easing of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave.

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.

Emadi brought the first two installments to Gaza in early November and December.

The Israeli 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 terrorism.

Last week, reports in Hebrew-language media said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, ordered the fund transfer frozen in the wake of the uptick of cross-border violence, including a rocket fired from the enclave at the southern city of Ashkelon.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces across the Gaza-Israel border fence, January 11, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks coming from Gaza, where the terror group, which seeks to destroy Israel, is the de facto ruler, having seized control in 2007 by ousting the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding weekly protests on the border that Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using as a cover for attacks on troops and attempts to breach the security fence. Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

Some 10,000 Palestinians participated in riots along the border Friday afternoon, throwing rocks, fire bombs and hand grenades at Israeli troops. Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and live fire in some cases.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said 19 people were injured in the clashes, including two members of the press and three medical personnel.

A Hamas-appointed government employee in Gaza signs a document to receive 50 percent of her long-overdue salary from funds donated by Qatar, while others wait in the queue, at the main Gaza Post Office, in Gaza City, December 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The protest appeared subdued compared to last week’s violence, in which one woman was killed and more than two dozen Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were wounded, prompting retaliatory Israeli air strikes.

The Haaretz daily reported last week that Israel would decide whether to allow the latest delivery of economic aid from Qatar to flow into Gaza based on the level of escalation Friday.

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