Gazans Await More Qatari Aid Amid Worsening Electricity Shortages, Coronavirus Outbreak

In recent weeks, incendiary and explosive devices, as well as rocket fire, have been directed into Israel from Gaza, prompting Israeli airstrike in retaliation

Jack Khoury
Almog Ben Zikri
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No electricity at a home in northern Gaza.
No electricity at a home in northern Gaza, Aug. 2020.Credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters
Jack Khoury
Almog Ben Zikri

Gazans are expecting the arrival of a Qatari envoy and the funds  they hope he is bringing to the impoverished Hamas-controlled enclave that has recently seen power cuts and several new coronavirus cases.       

According to reports from Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi is due to arrive in the Strip on Tuesday.

It was not clear whether, as in the past, he would be coming with suitcases full of cash, or if the Qatari funds would be distributed to Gazans by bank transfer or via post office branches. A Hamas source told Haaretz it also wasn’t certain how much money he would be coming with and whether the funds would be directed solely to needy families – at $100 each to between 100,000 and 120,000 families – or if it would also go to support other humanitarian projects.

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Meanwhile, four Islamic Jihad fighters were killed on Monday night in a powerful explosion in Shuja'iyya. According to local reports, the blast was caused by either a malfunction of a rocket launcher or a targeted attack by Israel. Islamic Jihad has refrained from blaming Israel for now. 

Sources in Gaza have stressed over the past several days that the situation has deteriorated due to electricity shortages, with households receiving only four hours of power a day. Pictures have circulated on social media of children sleeping on the floor due to the hot weather and the lack of air conditioning.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Strip confirmed first cases of COVID-19 in the general population on Monday, and security forces declared a full lockdown for 48 hours.

The four cases were from a single family, according to a government statement.

The closure would affect the entire Gaza Strip, according to an official from Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the territory.

An Israeli soldier putting out a fire at the Kissufim forest
An Israeli soldier putting out a fire at the Kissufim forest near the Gaza border, Aug. 22, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershovitz

Until Monday, the coastal enclave, which is home to two million Palestinians living in densely packed cities, towns and refugee camps, had reported no infections outside quarantine centers set up for people returning home from abroad.

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official, said on Monday that Israel is continuing to evade what he termed its responsibility to lift its blockade of Gaza and warned that Israel’s conduct would have consequences. A senior Islamic Jihad official, Daoud Shihab, said that what he described as resistance forces were no longer willing to tolerate the continued siege.

In addition to Israel, Egypt, which shares a short border of its own with Gaza, has placed its own limits on movements over the Gaza border.

In recent weeks, incendiary and explosive devices, as well as rocket fire, have been directed into Israel from Gaza, prompting Israeli aerial bombardments in retaliation. On Monday alone, incendiary balloons from Gaza caused 36 fires across the border in Israel. Firefighters said most of the fires small and in brushland and did not pose a danger.

On Monday evening, after it became clear that Israel would not be holding another round of election at this time, a Hamas official expressed the view that this boosts the prospects for calm between Israel and Gaza.

Gaza fishermen who have tried to go out to sea have encountered Israel Navy boats firing warning shots forcing them back to shore. Israel imposed new fishing limitations earlier this month following the escalation of tensions.

“Hamas leaders should know: When balloons blow up on our side, the explosions on their side will be a lot more painful,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday on a tour of an Iron Dome missile interceptor battery in the south. “We are not prepared to accept any rocket, any balloon, any security violation. As long as this continues, we will continue to act and we will continue to respond forcefully.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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