Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings; Hamas Expects Qatari Money Within Days

Qatari, UN envoys to visit Strip for discussions on implementation of cease-fire agreement, Palestinian media report

Palestinians gather to get soup offered for free during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Gaza City May 9, 2019.
Mohammed Salem / Reuters

Israel has reopened Sunday its border crossings with the Gaza Strip, as part of the cease-fire agreement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad that ended a week ago a round of aggression that claimed the lives of 25 Palestinians and four Israelis.

The reopening of the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings - which have been shut for just over a week - as part of the Egyptian-sponsored agreement, joins international mediation efforts to ensure the current calm between Israel and Palestinians factions remains.

>> Read more: The fighting is over, but Gaza's economic problems remain | Analysis ■ Grieving Israelis, sick Palestinians: A tour of destruction along the Gaza border | Gideon Levy ■  Qatari cash and Egyptian mediators brought Israel-Gaza calm, but for how long? | Analysis

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 26Haaretz

Hamas officials in the Strip said Saturday that Qatar is expected to transfer $30 million in aid to Palestinians in Gaza in the coming days. The funds are expected to arrive in the coastal enclave on Monday or Tuesday.

According to sources in Gaza, the Qatar Fund for Development in Gaza will transfer the money to impoverished families, and for projects that will create jobs.

On Tuesday, Qatar pledged to give $480 million to the Palestinians.  Officials in Ramallah said the decision to appeal to Qatar for financial support marked a change in approach from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose ties with Saudi Arabia are tighter.

The Qatari funds to the PA and Gaza are slated for education, health and humanitarian support.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that out of the $480 million, $50 million is a grant and $250 million is a loan to be paid out in monthly installments of $21 million. The remaining $180 million will be transferred to Gaza and be overseen by the Qatari Fund for Development.

It is still unclear whether the funds will be used to pay the salaries of Hamas officials who are not part of the organization's military wing. It also remains unclear whether the money will be transferred in cash or via bank and postal-bank accounts.

Meanwhile, Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi and UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov are set to arrive in Gaza on Monday as part of the efforts to implement the cease-fire understandings reached between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam reported Saturday.

Also, Israel's navy detained three Palestinian fishermen nine nautical miles off Gaza City, the head of the Gaza fishermen's union, Zakariya Badr, said Saturday, calling it a blatant violation of the cease-fire understandings.

On Friday, Israel reopened fishing zones along the Gaza coast, expanding the zone to 12 nautical miles.

According to an announcement by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the reopening of the fishing zones is "part of a civilian policy to avoid a humanitarian deterioration in the Gaza Strip and part of a policy that differentiates between terrorist activities and an uninvolved civilian population."

COGAT also said the fishing zones were opened on condition that the Gazans do not exceed the agreed-on fishing zone. Any deviation will be handled by the security forces, the statement added.

Palestinian factions in Gaza told Egyptian mediators earlier this week that they are giving Israel one week to implement the cease-fire agreements – including the reopening of the fishing zone, the transfer of Qatari money and the reopening of the border crossings for the entry of goods.

The reopening of the crossings has been delayed due to Israel's decision to close all crossings into the Strip and the West Bank during Israel's Memorial Day and Independence Day, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday. 

A Hamas political source told Haaretz that the group expected Israel to complete the three steps over the weekend, and if not, fighting may begin anew.