Israel’s high-level security cabinet on Wednesday reportedly authorized the transfer of Qatari funds to the Gaza Strip over the next few days.
The $15 million tranche had originally been scheduled for transfer Wednesday, but was blocked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Israeli soldiers came under fire along the Gaza border. Hamas has warned withholding the money could bring about an “explosion” of violence in Gaza.
Israel’s entire security establishment was in favor of moving forward with the transfer, including the IDF, the Mossad intelligence service, the Shin Bet security service, and the National Security Council, Israeli reports said.
During the meeting, officials noted that it was the Islamic Jihad terror group, not Hamas, that had been behind the attacks on Israeli troops, and that while Israel’s shelling in response had killed a Hamas fighter, the terror group that rules Gaza has refrained from responding.
Israeli news outlets reported late Wednesday that the security cabinet voted to transfer the funds before the weekend, citing officials.
But other Israeli officials subsequently told Hebrew media no final decision had been made.
The money, $10 million of which goes to Hamas civil servants and the rest to residents in the Strip, is seen as key to calming months of tensions between Israel and the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Hamas terror group.
A total of $90 million in six installments is slated to enter the Strip, as part of a tacit ceasefire agreement. A total of $30 million has been transferred thus far.
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi arrived in the Gaza Strip late Wednesday evening via the Erez crossing, the Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV reported.
Netanyahu’s initial decision to block the funds came after an IDF officer was lightly injured Tuesday by sniper fire on the border of the restive enclave, and a Hamas fighter was killed in a reprisal shelling by Israel. Earlier, troops along the border were shot at, and Israel shelled a Hamas post. There were no injuries in that exchange.
Israel’s military closed areas near the border to civilian traffic on Tuesday evening, fearing further violence.
The transfer of the funds to Hamas, which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, is widely unpopular in Israel.
The funds had initially been stalled by Israel last week in response to another flare up in cross-border violence, Qatar’s envoy to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, al-Emadi, told the Reuters news service.
Since March, Palestinians have been holding regular protests on the border. Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using the demonstrations as a cover for attacks on troops and attempts to breach the security fence.
JTA, Judah Ari Gross and Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.