Qatar said to reconsider Gaza cash transfers amid backlash

Internal report questions why money couldn’t be transferred directly to bank accounts of Gaza employees

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 is reportedly considering whether to continue with cash payments to Gaza, and mulling an alternative method for the transfer of the money, due to internal fears that by paying the salaries of Hamas members, it could be seen to be supporting terrorism.

According to a report on the Walla news site, a document circulated internally among Qatari officials argues that the transfer of money to Hamas was a “problematic” move that led to criticism from both Israel and the Palestinians. The document says the cash transfer “only reinforces the negative view of Qatar as a financier of terror acting against the Sunni states.”

Last year Saudi Arabia and its allies cut off ties with Qatar after accusing the gas-rich state of supporting extremism across the region.

The document also specifically addresses the problems caused by the method of transfer and the images seen around the world in the aftermath.

“If the intention was only to pay the salaries of government officials it would have been possible to transfer the money directly to their bank accounts, rather than cash — a method reminiscent of the mafia,” stated the report.

The document also notes that although Israel has disqualified hundreds of individuals from receiving the salaries on the grounds that they are members of Hamas’s military wing, Qatar believes there are limits to Israel’s ability to ensure the money does not fall into the hands of terrorists.

“Hamas’s demand to receive the money in a way that bypasses Israel’s monitoring capabilities reinforces the assumption that some of the money will go to terrorist organizations,” the document stated.

According to the Walla news site, an Israeli source said Qatar was concerned that the cash transfer has had a negative effect on its public image.

“In Qatar they fear that the transfer of funds will ultimately work against them,” the Israeli source said. “Instead of being perceived as rehabilitating Gaza, Qatar is perceived as financing Hamas and its military wing.”

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.

A Palestinian woman counts her money after receiving her salary in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 9, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The first payment of cash was driven into the Palestinian enclave through Israel by Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, according to a government source in Gaza.

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, which seeks to destroy Israel, seized control in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup, citing a need to prevent weapons smuggling.

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. 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 added.

The Qatari document also referenced the anger from the PA as a reason to reconsider the system.

Palestinians line up to receive their salaries in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 9, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Despite Israel giving the go-ahead to bring the money into Gaza, then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman also 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, according to the Yediot Aharonot daily.

Despite the deal with Qatar, a few days later saw one of the biggest flare-ups in violence when over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces, more than twice the rate at which they were launched during the 2014 conflict.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage.

Deadly clashes have accompanied the major protests along the Gaza border with Israel that began on March 30. Israel has accused Hamas of leading the protests and using them as cover to carry out attacks against troops stationed the border.

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