Palestinian group Hamas has promised not to touch “a single cent” of international aid to rebuild the besieged Gaza Strip after Israel bombarded the enclave for 11 days.
Yahya Sinwar, the head of the group’s political wing in Gaza, on Wednesday promised the “transparent and impartial” distribution of aid as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held for a sixth day.
“We welcome any international or Arab effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip,” Sinwar said.
“I affirm our commitment not to take a single cent intended for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts,” he said. “We have never taken a cent in the past.”
Sinwar’s remarks came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged his country’s help in rebuilding Gaza on Tuesday, but stressed that the aid must not benefit Hamas, which rules the coastal territory.
The US idea is instead to work with the Palestinian Authority (PA), based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, reducing the risk of strengthening Hamas, which is considered a “terrorist organisation” by the United States and the European Union.
Sinwar said Blinken’s remarks were aimed at widening the divide between Hamas and the PA but insisted they would have no effect on relations between the rival Palestinian factions.
“We will never fall for this trick and lash out at each other,” he said.
Separately on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter that the United Kingdom had pledged 3.2 million pounds ($4.5m) in emergency aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to support those in Gaza affected by recent hostilities.
According to health authorities, at least 254 people, including 66 children, were killed in Gaza as Israel bombarded the Palestinian territory from air, land and sea for 11 days. At least 12 people, including two children, were killed in Israel by rocket attacks carried out by Hamas and other armed groups based in Gaza, Israeli authorities said.
On Tuesday, the European Commission announced the European Union was boosting its humanitarian aid to Palestine by eight million euros ($9.8 million).
Hamas, Fatah divide
Abbas’s moderate Fatah party, which dominates the PA, has clashed with Hamas for years; Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza in 2007 after Hamas legitimately won 2006 elections, and the latter has since ruled only the parts of the occupied West Bank that are not administered by Israel.
Blinken is in the region to help cement the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that has so far held since coming into effect on Friday.
The latest flare-up in violence erupted on May 10 when Hamas sent volleys of rocket fire towards Israel after Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – a holy site in Jerusalem revered by Muslims and Jews – injuring hundreds of Palestinians.
The violence in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem followed crackdowns by Israeli forces on protesters demonstrating against the potential forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in favour of Jewish settlers.
Sinwar warned Israel against raiding Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and said that the recent escalation was nothing but an exercise in confrontation.
“Our people in Jerusalem must be ready to defend Al-Aqsa,” he said, adding that the demise of Israel is tied to its violent measures in the city, by way of incursions at the compound and attacking Palestinian Jerusalemites.