Qatar pledges Gaza support, UN says enclave ‘unlivable’
Qatar’s envoy to Gaza said yesterday Doha was committed to funding projects in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, despite pressure from Saudi Arabia and others who accuse it of supporting extremism. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip may already be “unlivable”, a United Nations official warned yesterday, after a decade of Hamas rule and a crippling Israeli blockade.
Speaking in Gaza City alongside a top UN official, Mohammed Al-Amadi said Qatar would continue to fund projects in Gaza, despite the “siege” imposed by Saudi Arabia and its allies in recent weeks. “We came to assure you we stood and will continue to stand with the besieged Palestinian people and we will continue with the reconstruction process,” he told a news conference. “The policy of Qatar is to support the people and the official government. We do not support Hamas, we support Hamas as a part of the Palestinian people.”
On June 5, Saudi Arabia and its allies severed all diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the gas-rich state of bankrolling “extremist” groups, including Hamas. Islamist movement Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007 but is considered a terrorist group by the United States, European Union and Israel. The official Palestinian government is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and led by Hamas’ rivals Fatah.
Qatar pledged $1 billion to reconstruct Gaza after the 2014 war with Israel, the largest single pledge. Speaking alongside Amadi, Nickolay Mladenov, UN envoy for the Middle East, thanked Qatar for the “commitments you have shown over many years to assist the people of Gaza.”
Robert Piper, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the Palestinian territories, told AFP in an interview to mark a new report on living conditions in Gaza all the “indicators are going in the wrong direction”. “We predicted some years ago that Gaza would fast become unlivable on a host of indicators and that deadline is actually approaching even faster than we predicted - from health access, to energy to water,” he said.
A 2012 UN report predicted the Palestinian enclave would be “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade. Piper pointed out that power supplies were down to as little as two hours a day in Gaza, where medical care had been slashed and youth unemployment was over 60 percent. In such circumstances “for most of us that unlivability point has already been passed”, he said. “And yet somehow the Gazans soldier on.”
Hamas seized Gaza from secular Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s forces in June 2007, leading Israel to impose a crippling blockade which critics say punishes all of the two million residents indiscriminately. Since 2013 Egypt, the only other country with which Gaza shares a border, has largely closed off its crossing and destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels that provided a vital lifeline for the economy while also allegedly being used by Hamas to bring in weapons. — Agencies
GAZA: UN Special Coordinator for the United Nations for the peace process in the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov (left) shakes hands with Qatar’s Ambassador to Gaza Mohammed Al-Emadi following a press conference yesterday.