Qatar to send money for West Bank, Gaza after Israel truce
Qatar on Tuesday said it is sending $480 million to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after a cease-fire deal ended the deadliest fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants since a 2014 war.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said $300 million would support health and education programs of the Palestinian Authority, while $180 million would go toward “urgent humanitarian relief” in U.N. programs and toward electricity. The Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip suffers from chronic electricity shortages.
The recent two-day outbreak of violence killed 25 people in Gaza, both militants and civilians, and four civilians in Israel.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said Egyptian mediators, along with officials from Qatar and the U.N., helped reach the cease-fire deal. The deal is believed to include a number of economic aid and development programs in Gaza, including providing additional electricity and creating temporary jobs in a territory where unemployment has skyrocketed over 50%.
The energy-rich, small nation of Qatar has become a major donor to the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have been divided between two rival governments since 2007, when Hamas overran forces from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in Gaza. Hamas has ruled Gaza since then, with the Palestinian Authority administering autonomous zones in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Both Palestinian governments are in deep financial distress. The Palestinian Authority has been hit hard by cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid by the United States, as well as a dispute with Israel over tax transfers.
Israel has begun to withhold money from these transfers that it says the Palestinians give to families of Palestinian attackers who have been jailed or killed in fighting with Israel.
Israel says the money rewards violence. The Palestinians say the payments are social welfare to families affected by conflict, and they have refused to accept the tax transfers unless the funding is fully restored.
The aid cuts and refusal to accept partial tax transfers have plunged the Palestinian Authority into a deep crisis in which it is only able to pay its workers half of their salaries.
In the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thanked the Qataris and said the aid would “help the Palestinian people overcome some of their hardships, face the challenges and strengthen their steadfastness on their land.”
In Gaza, meanwhile, the economy has been ravaged by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, years of fighting with Israel and Hamas’ isolation and mismanagement. Cuts in aid from Abbas’ government, as well as U.S. cuts in funding for U.N. programs, have also hurt the coastal strip’s population.
Hamas’ supreme leader, Ismail Haniyeh, welcomed the Qatari aid and thanked the Gulf state’s leader.
“This honorable decision is a continuation of the unwavering Qatari stances that support the Palestinian people politically and financially, in addition to defending the Palestinian rights at international platforms,” he said.