Qatar, UN Near Agreement on Gaza Aid Transfer, Sources Say, Amid Hamas Threats

Jack Khoury
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Palestinian students inspect a classroom at a school destroyed during the recent 11-day war between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement, in Gaza City, yesterday.
Palestinian students inspect a classroom at a school destroyed during the recent 11-day war between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement, in Gaza City, yesterday.Credit: MAHMUD HAMS - AFP
Jack Khoury

Qatar and the United Nations are close to an agreement for Qatari aid money to reach poor families in Gaza after a four-month delay, Palestinian sources in the enclave said on Monday evening.

Under the proposed agreement being negotiated, the money will be first funneled through the UN and not only through Palestinian banks in the West Bank, which fear potential legal action against them for facilitating the transferal of money to Hamas operatives classified as terrorists.

The sources said officials were considering the option of designating the money as humanitarian aid to the UN. Then, the organization would transfer the money to Gaza banks which would pass it onto the families.

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However, the sources said that bank executives had expressed their concern to Palestinian Authority and Qatari officials that legal action would still be taken against them even if the money would go to families in need, because most of them are identified with Hamas. Executives are also worried that banks won’t be able to handle these lawsuits.

Nevertheless, a diplomatic source told the SAWA news agency that Qatar and the UN are expected to finalize an agreement in the next several days and begin transferring the aid to the families after a four months delay.

The reports about the emerging aid agreement came as rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Monday for the first time since the latest round of hostilities in May. Both Israel and Hamas were surprised by the attack and its timing. Israel has yet to retaliate.

A Hamas source told Haaretz that the organization denied responsibility for the attack and said it was an attempt to disrupt the talks over the Qatari aid. Messages to that effect were also relayed to Israel through Egyptian and Qatari intermediaries in an effort to avoid an escalation.

The source added that the rocket attack had delayed a meeting of Palestinian factions that had been planned for Monday out of fear Israel would fiercely retaliate. Israel however, has not yet struck Hamas targets in response to the attack, which is typical following any rocket attack from Gaza. 

Despite progress toward an agreement over the aid, the sides have not reached an understanding over paying salaries to Hamas government employees in Gaza. The PA has refused to pay wages to some 27,000 workers, who Hamas regards as the responsibility of the PA. Qatar has expressed a willingness to pay the salaries, but no agreement on a mechanism for doing so has been agreed upon.

On Sunday, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that the organization was satisfied with the progress the aid talks were making, but he warned that if Qatari cash and construction supplies are not transferred to the Gaza within days Hamas would not hesitate to escalate the tensions with Israel.

A Hamas political source said the Israeli government is playing for time but that doing so would only create frustration in Gaza. Hamas will not wait for Israel to begin helping with Gaza reconstruction. The situation is so dire that “if you’re going to die anyway, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a missile, famine or a shortage of drugs.”

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