Qatar pays Gaza salaries, Is­rael de­nies cash is for Ha­mas

PLO of­fi­cials crit­i­cize move, Ma­j­dalani says money smug­gled into strip in suit­cases

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

GAZA CITY, Pales­tine: A $15 mil­lion Qatari cash in­fu­sion was paid out to im­pov­er­ished Pales­tinian civil ser­vants in the Gaza Strip Fri­day, of­fer­ing the en­clave’s Ha­mas a po­ten­tial do­mes­tic re­prieve, though Is­rael said the money would not go to the group.

Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, the leader of Ha­mas’ po­lit­i­cal ri­val based in the West Bank, has slashed Gaza bud­gets, beg­gar­ing tens of thou­sands of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees. That added pres­sure has con­tributed to a half a year of bloody protests across the bor­der with Gaza, which Is­rael keeps un­der block­ade.

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Fri­day, protests along the Gaza-Is­rael bor­der were less bloody than in pre­vi­ous weeks, al­though 37 Pales­tini­ans were wounded by Is­raeli army fire, in­clud­ing six mi­nors, the ter­ri­tory’s Health Min­istry said.

Pales­tinian sources said the Qatari pay­out, re­ceived Thurs­day, was the first of a to­tal of $90 mil­lion that would come into Gaza over the next six months with Is­raeli ap­proval.

Is­rael had pre­vi­ously agreed to the gas-rich Gulf Arab state do­nat­ing ma­te­ri­als for civil­ian con­struc­tion projects or fuel, wor­ried that more fun­gi­ble cash do­na­tions could reach Ha­mas, with which it has fought three wars in a decade.

“One day, I have no money to get food or medicine for my chil­dren, and now I will buy them food, medicine and clothes,” said Wael Abu Assi, a traf­fic po­lice­man, out­side a Gaza City post of­fice where peo­ple queued to draw their salaries.

Ha­mas has been un­der years of em­bargo by Is­rael and neigh­bor­ing Egypt. Ha­mas lead­ers said in the past they had re­ceived funds from other coun­tries in­clud­ing Iran.

Ob­servers for Qatar were present at all 12 post of­fices across Gaza to mon­i­tor the salary dis­burse­ments.

Em­ploy­ees had to present their iden­tity card and be fin­ger­printed.

“Long live Qatar!” shouted youths who greet­ing Doha’s point man for Gaza re­lief ef­forts, Mo­ham­mad al-Emadi, at a site near the bor­der with Is­rael that has seen fre­quent demon­stra­tions. “Long live Gaza!” he replied. But as the diplo­mat’s con­voy de­parted, some youths threw stones that smashed a win­dow on his body­guards’ car, sug­gest­ing not all Pales­tinian protesters were pleased with Qatar’s in­ter­ven­tion. Emadi’s car was un­scathed. Qatar’s of­fi­cial news agency said the donated money would ben­e­fit 27,000 civil ser­vants.

“The salaries for the oth­ers will be paid from lo­cal rev­enue,” it said.

Ha­mas has hired over 40,000 peo­ple in Gaza since 2007 but many ap­peared to have been ex­cluded from the list of pay­ees.

“They told me they don’t have money for me,” one em­ployee told Reuters on con­di­tion of anonymity. “Maybe Is­rael ve­toed my name?”

Of­fi­cials from Ha­mas, Qatar and Is­rael have been largely silent about de­tails of the pay­out ar­range­ment.

But a mem­ber of right-wing Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s Se­cu­rity Cab­i­net played down their sig­nif­i­cance.

“This is not money that is go­ing to Ha­mas ac­tiv­i­ties. It is money that is go­ing to the salaries of civil ser­vants, in an or­derly, or­ga­nized man­ner,” En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Zeev Elkin told Tel Aviv ra­dio sta­tion 102 FM.

Elkin ac­cused Abbas, whose peace talks with Ne­tanyahu stalled in 2014 and who is boy­cotting the United States be­cause of its proIs­rael poli­cies, of cut­ting salaries to “in­flame Gaza, be­cause he has not been suc­cess­ful on other fronts.”

“The Qataris came along and said: ‘We are will­ing to pay this in­stead of Abu Mazen [Abbas], in or­der to calm Gaza down.’ What does it mat­ter who pays it?” he said.

Wasel Abu Youssef, a mem­ber of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the Abbas-led Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion, crit­i­cized the move.

“Ar­range­ments through Qatar and else­where pro­long the cri­sis of Pales­tinian divi­sion,” Abu Youssef told Reuters.

Ah­mad Ma­j­dalani, an­other se­nior Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fi­cial, also ex­pressed the dis­con­tent of the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity over the deal.

Emadi had “smug­gled the money” into Gaza in suit­cases like a “gang­ster,” the of­fi­cial said.

“The PLO did not agree to the deal fa­cil­i­tat­ing the money to Ha­mas that way,” Ma­j­dalani, who is close to Abbas, told AFP.

Doha’s do­na­tion, as well as U.N.-Egyp­tian truce me­di­a­tion and win­ter rains, have tamped down the protests at the bor­der, where Is­raeli fire has killed more than 220 Pales­tini­ans since the protests be­gan on March 30.

“This is one of the fruits of the ‘March of Re­turn,’” Abra­ham Baker, a po­lice of­fi­cer who re­ceived a full salary, said, us­ing the Pales­tinian term for the protests, which de­mand rights to lands lost to Is­rael in the 1948 war of its found­ing. –

A man shows his money af­ter re­ceiv­ing his salary in Rafah, in the south­ern Gaza Strip.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.