Sources in Hamas said Friday that the organization has communicated to Israel that if it does not allow the transfer of Qatari funds to Gaza by next week, it will renew its protests on the Gaza border – an act that may lead to an additional escalation, just weeks after Israel and Hamas declared a cease-fire.
Qatar pledged $360 million, to be paid out over the course of the year, to the Gaza Strip in January. The money is to be used to pay Hamas salaries, provide financial aid to families in need and to operate the Strip's power stations.
Since the beginning of Operation Guardian of the Walls – the latest round of Israel-Gaza fighting that broke out on May 10 – no Qatari money has been allowed to pass into Gaza. According to a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, the Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Amadi clarified to Hamas that Israel is preventing the transfer of funds.
If the Qatari money does not arrive in Gaza, Hamas told Israel in an urgent message through Egyptian mediators, it will renew the mass Palestinian demonstrations on the border with Israel, which began as weekly demonstrations in March 2018 and dwindled almost two years later. During that span, the Israeli military warned that it would shoot those who came close to the fence. Over 200 Palestinians were killed and nearly 8,000 were wounded by Israeli fire during these demonstrations.
Lea Goldin, the mother of Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body is being held by Hamas in Gaza, said that IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Ayal Zamir promised her that Israel will not allow the transfer of Qatari money into the Strip until Hamas returns her son's body.
The Israeli military confirmed that Zamir had spoked with Goldin, but denied that he had made any such promise. According to the military, Zamir said that the transfer of funds is off the table for the time being, and that the matter of captives in Gaza is to be handled at the political level.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said recently that he intends to condition all non-humanitarian aid to Gaza on solving the crisis of the captives held by Hamas in the Strip – two Israeli civilians and the remains of two soldiers. As of now, Gantz has suggested leaving Gaza the "basic level of humanitarian aid."
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At the same time, the Israeli defense establishment is trying to form a system for transferring money and equipment for rebuilding the Strip without it falling into the hands of Hamas for military use. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi called for the Qatari money to be allowed to enter Gaza under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.
Meanwhile, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani denied on Friday that his country is funding terrorist organizations in Gaza. "Qatar has investing one billion four hundred million dollars in rehabilitating the Strip since 2012, and Israel knows exactly where all the money goes," he added.