To calm Gaza, a cash de­liv­ery

$15 mil­lion from Qatar is in­tended for un­paid civil ser­vants in the restive en­clave.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Noga Tarnopol­sky and Rushdi Abu Alouf

GAZA CITY — The bun­dles of green­backs ar­rived in three bulging suit­cases that crossed the bor­der from Is­rael in an ar­mored car: an es­ti­mated $15 mil­lion in U.S. cur­rency.

The Thurs­day de­liv­ery was a gift from Qatar to the civil ser­vants in the Gaza Strip.

Post of­fices were kept open Fri­day, a day they are nor­mally closed, as thou­sands of pub­lic ser­vants lined up hop­ing to re­ceive the re­main­der of their sum­mer salaries. They had been un­paid or un­der­paid for months.

Egypt bro­kered the deal in at­tempt to quell deep­en­ing un­rest in Gaza, where for seven months res­i­dents have been protest­ing Is­rael and its con­tin­u­ing block­ade of the Pales­tinian en­clave, which is ruled by the Is­lamist group Ha­mas.

Nearly 170 peo­ple have been killed in clashes with the Is­raeli army since March and thou­sands more have been wounded.

But the prob­lems in Gaza also stem from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tions be­tween Ha­mas, which the U.S. and its al­lies clas­sify as a ter­ror­ist group, and the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment that is based in the oc­cu­pied West Bank and re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing the salaries of civil ser­vants.

The two sides have been at odds since Ha­mas drove the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity out of Gaza in a vi­o­lent takeover more than 11 years ago.

Over the last year, amid a failed ef­fort to form a unity gov­ern­ment, the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity has en­acted harsh puni­tive mea­sures against Ha­mas. Wa­ter pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems and other in­fra­struc­ture have gone with­out main­te­nance. Many fam­i­lies have had elec­tric­ity no more than 4 hours a day.

And more than 40,000 civil ser­vants have not re­ceived

a full salary in months, with some not hav­ing been fully paid since 2013.

Stand­ing in line Fri­day, Jamila Abed Tolba, a 52year-old nurse em­ployed at Gaza’s Shifa hos­pi­tal, said she was last paid in July — and $300 less than she was owed.

She got that $300 Fri­day, but re­mained wor­ried about her next pay­check.

“We don’t re­ally know how the Qatari money will be dis­trib­uted,” she said.

“I have a big fam­ily to look af­ter,” she said. “My hus­band died five years ago, and I pay $200 to rent my house and sup­port two sons at the univer­sity.”

Also in line, Alaa Saleh, 35, a teacher and the fa­ther of three girls, said he was un­happy be­cause af­ter promis­ing that salaries would be paid in full, the Fi­nance Min­istry had an­nounced that only 60% would be handed over Fri­day.

The pay­ment by Qatar was widely seen as a move to demon­strate good faith to the United States. The two na­tions’ re­la­tion­ship has suf­fered over the last year as Qatar and its ri­val Saudi Ara­bia, an­other im­por­tant U.S. ally, have been at odds.

But some Pales­tini­ans see the move as a ca­pit­u­la­tion to Is­rael, which wants to foster sta­bil­ity in Gaza and cool un­rest with­out bol­ster­ing

Ha­mas.

Fri­day af­ter­noon, about 20 young men protested against Qatar, chant­ing that Mo­hammed Al Emadi, the coun­try’s re­gional en­voy who made the cash de­liv­ery, was a col­lab­o­ra­tor with Is­rael. Some saw the pay­ment as an at­tempt to buy off protesters who’ve been amass­ing on Gaza’s bor­der with Is­rael nearly ev­ery Fri­day.

One so­cial me­dia post showed an old man whose mouth was taped shut with a dol­lar bill over it.

As Al Emadi trav­eled to the bor­der Fri­day to ob­serve this week’s demon­stra­tion, his car was pelted with rocks. The protests were smaller than usual, but a 28year-old man was killed.

Pales­tinian sources told Reuters the Qatari pay­out was the first phase of a pro­jected $90-mil­lion grant that would flow into Gaza over the next six months with Is­raeli ap­proval.

But Yahya Sin­war, one of Ha­mas’ lead­ers in Gaza, said no deal had been struck with Is­rael.

Any­one claim­ing that “there is a deal or un­der­stand­ings with the oc­cu­pa­tion does not tell the truth,” he said at a bor­der rally east of Gaza City.

In­stead, he said, Ha­mas was work­ing to­ward “un­der­stand­ings” with Egypt, Qatar and the United Na­tions

“to lift the block­ade.”

The gov­ern­ment of Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, who views Ha­mas as an im­pla­ca­ble en­emy of his le­git­i­mate rule, con­demned the pay­ment.

The of­fi­cial Pales­tinian news agency WAFA pub­lished a state­ment ac­cus­ing Ha­mas of “sell­ing Pales­tinian blood for $15 mil­lion.”

“Ha­mas lead­ers are pre­pared to align them­selves with the devil in or­der to re­main in power and un­der­mine the Pales­tinian na­tional project,” the state­ment said, lash­ing out at Ha­mas for “pur­su­ing con­spir­a­cies, in ac­cord with the Zion­ist-Amer­i­can con­spir­acy aimed at sep­a­rat­ing the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.”

Ah­mad Ma­j­dalani, a se­nior mem­ber of Abbas’ party, re­leased a state­ment “strongly re­ject­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of Qatari funds into Gaza with­out the ap­proval of Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas.”

“If the Au­thor­ity had agreed to bring in the money, the Au­thor­ity would trans­fer it via banks, not in travel bags,” he said.

Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dents Tarnopol­sky and Abu Alouf re­ported from Jerusalem and Gaza City, re­spec­tively.

Said Khatib AFP/Getty Images

PALES­TINI­ANS in Rafah in the south­ern Gaza Strip line up to re­ceive salary pay­ments. Many civil ser­vants have worked with­out pay for months.

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