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Qatar said threatening to end aid to Gaza in bid to press Israel on annexation

Qatari payments to impoverished Hamas-controlled Strip, as well as an unofficial truce between Israel and terror groups, have been key to maintaining quiet there

Palestinians receive financial aid from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, June 20, 2019. 
(Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians receive financial aid from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, June 20, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Qatar is reportedly threatening to cut off millions of dollars in aid to the Gaza Strip if Israel goes ahead with annexation, in an apparent bid to pressure Jerusalem to rethink the plan.

Qatari payments to the impoverished, Hamas-controlled Strip have been key to maintaining quiet there, as well as an unofficial truce between Israel and terror group, and Qatar is reluctant to be seen as enabling any West Bank annexation, Channel 13 reported Tuesday.

Quoting several Western diplomats, the report said Qatar has conveyed its message through multiple channels over the past two week, including in a recent meeting of donor countries to the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials were present in that meeting, held over Zoom.

Under the coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the premier can begin on July 1 moving forward with annexing the roughly 30 percent of the West Bank slated for Israel under US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal. The proposal, which the Palestinian Authority has rejected out of hand, envisions a Palestinian state in the rest of the territory.

The plan has faced widespread and harsh criticism from much of the international community, with several Gulf States warning it could jeopardize their cooperation with Israel and Jordan warning it could spark conflict.

Qatar has been key in facilitation calm in Gaza with its financial aid, which comes with the support of Israel.

Last week Israel reportedly approved the transfer of $50 million by Qatar to Gaza as part of an apparent deal to halt escalating tensions with terror groups in the Strip. A Qatari official said Tuesday that distribution of the latest payments would begin on Sunday.

Left to right: Blue and White alliance leaders Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi during a tour of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, near Kibbutz Kfar Aza, on March 13, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The apparent deal came despite bitter criticism of such arrangements by Gantz throughout the past three national election campaigns, in which the opponent-turned-ally of Netanyahu accused the government of paying “protection money” to terror groups by allowing the transfer of millions of dollars of Qatari aid.

The generally restive Gaza border has been calm in recent months, following a large flare-up in February in which Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel after the Israel Defense Forces killed one of its members as he was planting a bomb along the border. The IDF responded to the rocket attacks with a series of punishing airstrikes on the group’s bases in the Strip.

In the intervening three and a half months, Israel has been negotiating a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which has reined in the Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in the Strip throughout the process as well as the often violent demonstrations along the Gaza border.

In recent days, however, Gaza terror groups have indicated they would restart the low-level violence along the border, including the protests.

Israel has conducted three large operations against terror groups in the Gaza Strip in the past 12 years, as well as many shorter, multi-day exchanges.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report

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