Qatar plans to resume Gaza funding with new mechanism

New payment mechanism for civil servants and poor families in Gaza Strip will involve PA President Abbas and the UN.

In this file photo from February, Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip Mohammed al-Emadi attends the unveiling of the foundation stone for the construction of the Hamad bin Jassim General Hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza strip [File: Said Khatib/AFP]

Qatar will soon resume funding for civil servants and poor families in the besieged Gaza Strip under a new mechanism involving the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations, the Gulf state’s aid envoy has said.

Envoy Mohammed al-Emadi said on Monday, after meeting leaders from Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs Gaza, that Qatari stipends for civil servants and poor families, suspended since May, would resume in the coming days.

Doha has underwritten Gaza rebuilding and infrastructure projects since the 2014 Israeli offensive on the coastal enclave, but another round of fighting in May prompted Israeli and the US demands to revise the payouts.

“All the details” regarding the distribution mechanism “have been reviewed and the process will begin shortly,” al-Emadi said.

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

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

Gas-rich Qatar used to spend $30m a month to help operate the enclave’s lone power plant and to support families and public servants.

Hamas, blacklisted as a terrorist group in the West, has endorsed a new payment mechanism involving the rival, Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas as well as the United Nations, al-Emadi said in a statement.

He did not elaborate.

Israeli officials had previously said that the PA- and UN-led mechanism could involve disbursing the Qatari aid as vouchers rather than cash, as a safeguard against Hamas diverting the money to military ends.

COGAT, the Israeli Defence Ministry agency for liaising with the Palestinians, declined comment on the Qatari announcement.

Emadi said the new agreement also entails the full opening of border crossings with Gaza, which Israel and neighbouring Egypt keep cordoned off. There was no immediate word on when this might happen.

The hold-up in Qatari payouts had fuelled rancour in aid-dependent Gaza, which has seen protests near the Israeli fence east of Gaza in recent days.

Al-Emadi voiced hope that the resumption of payouts and a full border opening “will have a clear and positive impact on improving the living reality in Gaza Strip [and] help all parties emerge from the tense situation”.

Qatar and Egypt have both promised funds to help rebuild the Palestinian territory. Having already pumped more than $1bn into Gaza projects since 2014, Qatar pledged another $500m in late May after the Israeli offensive killed at least 254 Palestinians, including 66 children.

In Israel, Palestinian rocket fire killed 13 people, including a soldier, according to the military and police.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies