Last-minute Efforts Underway in N.Y. to Present a Multi-million-dollar Gaza Aid Package

Aid package established by UN representatives, the U.S., the EU, Israel and the Palestinians and set to focus on reconstruction of electricity and water infrastructures ■ Israeli representative Tzchai Hanegbi stresses Israel wants to prevent Gaza crisis

FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian man repairs a fishing net outside his house at the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, September 1, 2018.
\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

United Nations representatives, the United States, the European Union, Israel and the Palestinians have cultivated a special aid package for the Gaza Strip worth tens of millions of dollars.

The aid package – which was established ahead of a meeting in New York on Thursday of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) – will mainly focus on the reconstruction of Gaza's electricity and water infrastructures.

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The European Union, in a statement by foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Thursday, announced it  will add 40 million Euros to its financing to UNRWA. This, Mogherini said, would be on top of the funding already provided by the EU to the UN refugee agency.

"We will continue to invest in that because we think this is a key, not only humanitarian duty, but also investment in the two state solution," Mogherini said following the AHLC meeting.

Negotiations surrounding the aid package were led over the past year by the UN's special Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, who has just received the green light from Israel and the Palestinians to go ahead with the initative.

U.S. Middle East special envoy Jason Greenblatt also attended meetings about the aid package.

According to Israeli sources involved in the matter, the breakthrough was achieved when the Palestinian Authority agreed not to slap sanctions on Gaza if the aid package does indeed get passed on to the Strip.

Israel's minister of regional cooperation, Tzachi Hanegbi, who is set to represent Israel in the donor countries' meeting said Thursday that the "meeting today is taking place against the backdrop of the danger of escalation along Israel's southern border. Israel and the entire international community are united in the willingness to initiate emergency aid to prevent the expected humanitarian crisis in Gaza."

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Nonetheless, Israel will only take "essential, long-term steps for rehabilitation" if "Goldin, Shaul, Mengistu and al-Said [i.e Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, the two Israeli soldiers whose bodies are considered to be held by Hamas as well as the two Israeli citizens, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Said, who are said to be held captive] are returned to their families," Hanegbi said, in accordance with strategic messaging Israel has been repeating in recent months.

Also participating in Thursday's meeting is the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu-Rukun. Abu-Rukun is set to present a special report on the advancement of humanitarian projects in the Strip.

Contents of the report were put together by COGAT's civilian department in coordination with representatives of the Palestinian Authority.

The UN's Mladenov also published his own report ahead of the committee's meeting in which he warned that there are urgent steps that have to be taken in order to prevent a violent escalation; among them is the easing of Israel's blockade on the Strip and the providing of humanitarian aid.

Mladenov's report states that Gaza's unemployment rate stands at 53 percent and points at American aid cuts to the budget of UNRWA – the UN's agency providing aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants – as a factor that contributed to this deterioration.

Members of the Middle East Quartet (Russia, the U.S., the EU and the UN) published a warning Wednesday in which they stated that the Quartet has "deep concern over the continued escalation in Gaza."

Members of the Quartet convened on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in order to "discuss the prospects for peace negotiations and the situation on the ground, in particular in Gaza," their statement read.

The statement also noted that Quartet envoys support the UN's "efforts to prevent further escalation."

Envoys also welcomed the new EU special representative for the Middle East peace process, Susanna Terstal.