Hamas Pays Gaza Clerks After Receiving $15 Million From Qatar

Israeli security officials say the Qatari delivery has created a window of opportunity to push for a long-term cease-fire before another round of violence breaks out

File photo: A Palestinian Hamas-hired employee receives her salary, southern Gaza Strip. November 9, 2018.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Hamas began paying salaries to its employees on Friday, a day after Qatar delivered the second $15-million payment to the Gaza Strip.

According to Gaza's Finance Ministry, each employee is to receive approximately half of their monthly salary in this second round of payments, which was coordinated with Israel.

Some $5 million of the total amount has been earmarked to pay wages of Hamas officials. Another one-third is allocated to the families of those killed and wounded in confrontations with Israeli forces, and the rest will be used to foster employment, according to assessments.

>> With Gaza quiet, Israel’s next challenge could come from West Bank ■ These Israeli troops were deeply scarred by a Gaza war incident, but never told anyone. Until now

Israeli officers have argued during recent security briefings that the decision to allow Qatari funding, which was criticized by many Israelis, creates a narrow window of opportunity for Israel to propose solutions to Gaza’s humanitarian woes in return for a long-term cease-fire. The officials believe that if Israel does not act within several weeks, another round of fighting is likely.

Even though many Israelis criticized what they considered a limp-wristed response to the hundreds of rockets Hamas fired at Israel last month, Hamas has been deterred by the latest round and doesn't want to lose any more assets than it already has, according to Israeli intelligence assessments.

Protesters running to take cover from tear gas fired by Israeli troops during a protest east of Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, October 12, 2018.
Adel Hana,AP

Therefore, the Israeli army wants the National Security Council to move forward with rehabilitation projects that have been discussed in recent months. If this effort fails, security officials warn, Hamas is likely to escalate the situation in an effort to attract global attention, even at the price of another round of fighting with Israel.

Currently, Hamas is trying to make the most of its recent achievement to secure financial aid and would not want to resume fighting before reaping maximum benefit from the latest round, the officers assess. The Israeli army believes Hamas needs visible steps it can present to Gaza's residents as suitable recompense for the heavy casualties they suffered during the weekly demonstrations along the Israeli border.

Despite the poor weather conditions, large numbers of protesters are expected to gather along the border later on Friday to participate in the weekly demonstration. The committee that organizes the marches has called on Gaza's residents to participate en masse, dubbing this Friday's march "The Great Stone Intifada." Attendance is also expected to be high in light of a U.S.-backed resolution condemning Hamas being voted down at the United Nations late on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank criticized Hamas, accusing it of selling the blood of Palestinian protestors killed or injured by the Israeli army in recent months for Qatari money. Hamas has denied these accusations, claiming the payment of salaries is a proof of the success of the weekly marches. 

Tens of thousands of Palestinian Authority employees in the West Bank received 50 percent of their salaries Friday after the government in Ramallah transferred the funds to local banks.