Hamas will not hesitate to escalate the security situation with Israel if Qatari cash and construction supplies are not transferred to the Strip within a few days, the militant group's spokesperson Hazem Qassem told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Sunday.
Representatives of the Palestinian factions in Gaza are expected to meet Monday to discuss possible responses to the delay in the transfer of the Qatari money and construction materials for reconstructing the Strip after May's hostilities with Israel.
Nevertheless, Qassem expressed optimism over advancing talks with the Qataris and their Egyptian mediators.
Tensions have grown in recent days between Palestinian factions in the coastal enclave, as has the frustration of Gazans, due to the ongoing delay in the transfer of Qatari funds to about 160,000 needy families.
Members of the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the factions in the Strip, said that the purpose of Monday’s meeting is to form a unified stance among the factions and to decide whether to take gradual steps toward escalation, starting with launching incendiary balloons toward Israel and nighttime operations next to the border fence.
Qassem added that the threat of escalation has been communicated to Israel through Egyptian mediators, and that Gaza will not sit idly by while the siege on the Strip is not eased.
Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that Hamas had agreed that Israel and the United States will examine the list of 160,000 families in the Gaza Strip who were chosen to receive a monthly stipend from Qatar as a condition for transferring the money, to ensure that it does not include Hamas operatives or members of other groups accused of supporting terrorism.
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Gazans expected that Hamas’ agreement would help speed up the talks, and that the process would be finished within a few days. Hamas, though, believes that Israel is delaying the transfer of Qatari funds, and Hamas cannot tell whether Israel has started to examine the list of families.
Palestinian Authority Welfare Minister Ahmed Majdalani said Monday that the method through which the Gazan families will withdraw the funds has not yet been formulated, which is one of the reasons for the delay. Qatar is expected to give each family a special card that will help them withdraw the money from ATMs in the Strip, but a final agreement has not been reached.
A Hamas political source said that the Israeli government is trying to draw out the process, which is only increasing the tension and frustration in the Strip. Additionally, Hamas will not wait until Israel starts helping to rebuild the Strip, and that the situation is so dire that “If people die, then it is not important anymore whether it is from missiles, hunger or a medicine shortage.”
The economic crisis in Gaza is stark. One day before the start of the school year, stores and businesses that are usually full of customers remain empty. Gazan merchants are considering drastically lowering prices in the hopes of covering some oexpenses, and are waiting for news of the Qatari money transfer and the beginning of construction in the Strip with bated breath.