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Monday, March 20, 2023

Qatar to pour $60 million into new Israel-Gaza gas pipeline

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Qatar pledged $60 million on Thursday to help construct a natural gas pipeline running from Israel into the Gaza Strip, the Qatari government said, a project that aims to ease the energy crisis that long has afflicted the impoverished Palestinian enclave.

Natural gas now flowing through a pipeline in Israel from the eastern Mediterranean will be transported via a new extension into Gaza, the Qatari Foreign Ministry announced on its website. The eastern Mediterranean has become one of the world’s major offshore drilling zones, with lucrative deepwater gas fields recently discovered in Israel’s territorial waters.

The European Union also has pledged over $24,448,800 to fund the pipeline on the Gaza side of the border, the ministry added.

The statement did not give a date for the pipeline’s completion. But the official confirmation of funding after weeks of anticipation signals a diplomatic breakthrough between the many parties to the project: Europeans, Israelis, Palestinians and Qataris.

Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that governs Gaza, are bitter enemies and have fought three wars and numerous other skirmishes since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. The rounds of violence, coupled with a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade and infighting with the rival Palestinian Authority, have helped precipitate a financial collapse in the enclave.

Gaza has just one power plant and struggles with frequent and widespread electricity outages.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh praised Qatari and European support, saying the project would “solve the electricity problem absolutely,” according to the Qatari statement.

The small, energy-rich Gulf nation of Qatar has become a major donor to the Palestinians, providing $20 million to Gaza each month since 2018. The money has paid for badly needed electricity, helped Hamas cover the salaries of its civil servants and provided monthly $100 million stipends to scores of impoverished families. Qatar has provided additional funds for development hospitals like roads and hospitals.

Qatari aid, delivered with Israeli consent, has provided some relief to the local economy and is seen as a factor in preventing simmering tensions between Israel and Hamas from boiling over into renewed conflict.

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