Qatar announced on Thursday an agreement has been reached with the United Nations on transferring stalled Qatari aid money for poor families in the Gaza Strip, after a four-month delay that risked reigniting tensions in the region.
According to the Qatari statement, about 100,000 Palestinian families in Gaza will receive $100 in cash each month, starting in early September.
According to the agreement cash transfers will stop completely, and instead the funds will be transferred to a U.N. bank account in New York, from there to banks in Ramallah and then to their branches in Gaza.
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.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also confirmed the agreement reached, saying the new mechanism agreed upon “will ensure the money reaches those who truly need it.”
Gantz added he had been in contact with Qatari officials, who “understood the Israeli need” to make sure the funds don’t end in the hands of Hamas authorities, stressing the new mechanism gives Israel greater oversight.
He said parties are looking into the possibility of setting up another mechanism that would see funds distributed by the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, but not Gaza.
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In his statement, Gantz thanked "Qatar for assuming a constructive role in the region," as well as the United States, the United Nations and Egypt, "and all the partners who assisted in promoting the process to allow aid for those in need, while maintaining Israel's security."
A senior Israeli defense official visited Egypt on Wednesday amid efforts to promote reconstruction in the Gaza Strip and negotiate a long-term arrangement to prevent violence.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz met in Israel with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel. He invited Bennett to visit Egypt sometime in the new few weeks.
The negotiations were stalled in part due to how the money would be transferred to Gaza. Under the proposed agreement being negotiated, the money would first be funneled through the United Nations and not only through Palestinian banks in the West Bank, which fear potential legal action against them for facilitating the transfer 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.
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.
While negotiations remained stalled, unrest began to build again in Gaza. Militant groups in Gaza planned to resume the protests at the border fence with Israel as early as this weekend, but are set to reconsider the move following the Qatari and Israeli statements.
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.
The following day, two rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza for the first time since May’s hostilities. As of Wednesday afternoon, Israel had not retaliated for the rocket fire.