Qatar to disburse millions in Gaza aid with UN help

Qatari ambassador to Gaza Strip announces UN-backed $20m package as Palestinian shot dead during clashes with Israelis.

    Under an informal deal struck in November, $90m in Qatari aid was to have been transferred in six installments to Gaza workers [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]
    Under an informal deal struck in November, $90m in Qatari aid was to have been transferred in six installments to Gaza workers [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

    Qatar will adopt a new formula for getting aid into Gaza after the Palestinian enclave's rulers Hamas rejected a cash injection over unacceptable Israeli conditions on allowing it through.

    The Qatari ambassador to the Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, said on Friday his country would now channel millions of dollars into humanitarian projects "in full coordination with the United Nations".

    The latest development comes as fresh clashes erupted in the Gaza-Israel buffer zone between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces, leaving at least one person dead.

    Since Palestinians began holding almost-daily rallies along the Israeli fence at the borders with Gaza in March 2018, more than 250 protesters have been killed - and thousands more wounded - by Israeli army gunfire and tear gas volleys.

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    Demonstrators are demanding the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

    On Friday, Qatar's al-Emadi said besieged Palestinians in Gaza have the right to demonstrate "to show their suffering to the world".

    "I hope that today the march of return will be as calm as the rest of the days," he said.

    In the same statement, al-Emadi also accused "some parties" of "exploiting" Qatar's financial aid for the purpose of breaking "the will of the Palestinian people and [to] discredit their nationalism and the nationalism of resistance factions".

    "This is not true," he said, going on to announce the new formula for aid to the residents of Gaza.

    A first package of agreements, worth $20m, will be signed with the United Nations on Monday, he told reporters in Gaza City.

    Details of the scheme are so far unclear and there was no immediate comment from the UN.

    A Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, welcomed Qatar's decision to give money to humanitarian projects.

    Blocked by Israel

    Under an informal agreement struck in November, $90m in Qatari aid was to have been transferred in six monthly instalments to Gaza to pay civil servant salaries.

    Hamas wants to pay the workers it hired, but doesn't have enough money after years of Israeli-led blockades, wars and the failure of reconciliation efforts with the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank.

    Wages have been cut in half for several years, and payments were often late.

    Two $15m payments have so far been delivered to Gaza, but a third, which was due this week, was blocked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Netanyahu took the decision after two shooting incidents along the Gaza-Israel fence, including one in which a soldier was lightly wounded by Palestinian fire.

    Israel's permission is required since the cash must be delivered via its territory.

    The authorities eventually relented and gave the go-ahead for the delayed transfer.

    But Hamas announced on Thursday it would not accept it, saying Israel had added conditions not covered by the November agreement.

    Another Palestinian was killed on Friday by Israeli soldiers in a separate incident in the West Bank, the health ministry said.

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    SOURCE: News agencies