Qatar Says Deal Struck on Aid to Needy Gazan Families, Easing Border Restrictions

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The Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in May
The Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in MayCredit: Said Khatib/AFP

Qatar's envoy to Gaza said on Monday that humanitarian aid will be transferred to needy families in the Gaza Strip and that "major goods" will be allowed to enter the enclave, after two weeks of tensions between Israel and militant factions in the enclave.

The ambassador, Mohammed Al Emadi, said the decisions were made in full coordination with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority, and that these measures will help deliver "calm and stability" to the enclave. COGAT, the Israeli Defene Ministry agency for liaising with the Palestinians, declined comment on the Qatari announcement.

Emadi said the new agreement also entails full opening of border crossings with Gaza, which Israel and neighboring Egypt keep cordoned off. There was no immediate word on when this might happen. 

Sources in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza told Haaretz that the decision came after many meetings in Ramallah, Gaza and Israel. They connected the decision to three key events: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Abbas' triple summit with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Hamas, blacklisted as a terrorist group in the West, has endorsed a new payment mechanism involving the PA, President Abbas as well as the United Nations, Al-Emadi said in a statement.

Israeli officials had previously said that the PA- and UN-led mechanism could involve disbursing the Qatari aid as vouchers rather than cash, as a safeguard against Hamas diverting the money to military needs.

'Calm and stability' after the storm?

On Saturday, Hamas launched over a dozen of incendiary balloons into Israel, after Palestinian factions in the Strip vowed to intensify their activity along the border with Israel in protest of what they say is "Israel's footdragging" on transferring of the Qatari aid money. 

This came after Israeli Border Policeman Barel Haredia Shmueli was killed by Palestinian gunfire during protests along the Gaza border fence, and dozens of Palestinian demonstrators were injured.

Qatar announced last month that about 100,000 Palestinian families in Gaza would receive $100 in cash each month, starting in early September. But media outlets in Gaza said that Israel had removed about 2,000 families from the list of those entitled to receive the stipends, citing security reasons. The move sparked the ire of Gaza's militant factions that vowed to "continue their struggle."

The UN World Food Program will issue cards to Gazans that will allow them to the money. The list of beneficiaries will be approved by Israel, and the agreement will remain in effect until the end of 2021.

Qatar and Egypt have both promised funds to help rebuild the Palestinian territory. Having already pumped more than $1 billion into Gaza projects since 2014, Qatar pledged another $500 million in late May.

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