Qatar says ready to start Gaza cash infusion, including for Hamas employees

Qatar says ready to start Gaza cash infusion, including for Hamas employees

15:19 - Doha says distribution of $500 million to begin soon, after apparently resolving dispute over whether Hamas civil servants will be allowed to access money

Qatar’s envoy to Gaza said on Monday that aid from his country will be distributed soon in the Palestinian enclave, including to employees of the Hamas government, seemingly resolving a main sticking point holding up the cash infusion.

Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict that saw heavy bombardments in the Strip and intense rocket fire into Israel.

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi, who is currently in Gaza, said on Monday that “all the details” regarding the distribution mechanism “have been reviewed and the process will begin shortly.”

Civil servants in Gaza’s Hamas-run government can be considered approved recipients, “following an agreement by the different parties,” Emadi said.

Qatari support is considered a crucial lifeline for impoverished Palestinians living in Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, the year the Hamas terror group took power.

Israel, which still allows many goods into the Strip, views the blockade as a necessary measure to keep terror groups from being able to rearm.

Before the latest Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas-led fighters in May, the flow of funds from Qatar was considered vital to maintaining relative calm between the Jewish state and the Islamists.

But Israel has said that it was opposed to a resumption of the funding under the terms that existed before May’s hostilities, claiming that money was being used by armed groups rather than strictly for humanitarian needs.

The stalemate appeared to have been resolved late last month when Israel and Qatar announced approval of a new mechanism to distribute the funds, with money transferred directly to individuals by the United Nations.

Under the scheme, Israeli-approved recipients in Gaza will be issued UN credit cards to withdraw the funds, sources familiar with the arrangement have said.

But the aid distribution had not yet started and unrest has persisted, with Palestinians staging protests and violent riots along the Gaza-Israel border. An Israeli soldier was shot by a Gaza gunman during a border riot last month and later died of his wounds. Two Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.

A source within Hamas said that a sticking point was its insistence that civil servants employed by the Islamists be allowed to benefit from Qatari aid.

Emadi’s comments came as United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Doha for talks mostly focused on Afghanistan.

Blinken spoke with Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid and praised Israeli moves to keep a lid on tensions and ease humanitarian pressures in the Strip, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said.

There was no immediate comment on the aid from Israeli authorities.

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