newsIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Qatar refuses to renew Gaza aid as tensions rise in Strip

Doha is reportedly angry at Hamas’s overtures to Syria and involvement in violent escalations in the Strip.

Hamas distributes financial aid provided by Qatar to Gazans at a post office in the Strip, Sept. 8, 2020. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.
Hamas distributes financial aid provided by Qatar to Gazans at a post office in the Strip, Sept. 8, 2020. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS.

Qatar has delivered a significant blow to Hamas, informing the Palestinian terrorist organization that it will not be renewing its monthly aid package of $30 million.

Palestinian sources in Gaza and Egypt said that the decision, reportedly driven by anger at Hamas’s recent overtures to Syria and its increasing involvement in violent escalations in the Strip, threatens to exacerbate the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

But another Palestinian source said there are signs that Qatar will ultimately renew, and perhaps even increase, its support.

Qatar’s frustration with Hamas deepened last October, when Syrian leader Bashar Assad hosted a Hamas delegation in Damascus for the first time in a decade. This move ran contrary to Qatar’s interests in promoting Hamas’s engagement in “moderate political Islam” and the formation of a Muslim Brotherhood-led state in Gaza.

“In recent years, Qatar has demonstrated its contempt for the leadership of Hamas and especially for [Saleh] al-Arouri, who is received with the honor of kings by Hezbollah,” a Palestinian source said.

Based in Lebanon, al-Arouri is Hamas’s overall commander in Judea and Samaria. His intention to destabilize the Palestinian Authority contrasts with Qatar’s commitment to the Arab peace initiative, which advocates for a two-state solution.

The Palestinian source said that as a result, the Qatari media has been smearing Hamas at every opportunity.

“And all this despite the fact that since 2014, Qatar has invested over a billion dollars in the leadership of Hamas and in the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip,” the source added.

While Qatar has expressed willingness to provide ongoing support for the Hamas administration in Gaza, the recent demand from Hamas to increase the monthly aid highlights the financial strain the terrorist group faces. The rising cost of fuel, purchased with Qatari funds in Egypt and transported to Gaza, has cut into the monthly allocations for Hamas officials, leaving many receiving just 50% of their salaries.

Until recently, the $30 million monthly aid package was divided into three parts: $10 million for 100,000 impoverished families, $10 million for fuel for power plants, and $10 million for Hamas officials’ salaries. However, irregular disbursements in recent months have resulted in Hamas officials having to cope with significantly reduced payments.

The Qatari aid is essential for sustaining the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has resorted to imposing heavy taxes on residents to augment its financial resources.

Qatar’s reluctance to continue financing Hamas can be attributed to several factors. One major concern is the possibility of violating American laws, as the United States has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

But there are more deeply-rooted issues.

Qatar initially encouraged Hamas to engage in Palestinian politics, supporting its entry into Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. Qatar has been seeking to influence Hamas to adopt a more moderate political stance and establish a Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Gaza.

The departure of then-Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal from Syria in 2011 and Hamas’s strategic alignment with Iran have strained Qatar-Hamas relations.

Hamas’s collaboration with Iran and Hezbollah has angered Qatar, which supports Syrian rebel groups and opposes Damascus’s return to the Arab League.

Qatar’s move also comes on the backdrop of rising tensions within Gaza.

Hamas operatives have fired rockets toward the sea, launched drones into Israel, and allowed Gazans to escalate their riots along the Israeli border fence. This has led to casualties, including Hamas operatives. On Tuesday, Gazans burned tires and detonated explosives at the security fence. Israeli forces responded with riot-dispersal measures, and in some instances, live fire.

In response to the violence, Israel also closed its border crossings with the Strip, halting the income of 17,000 Gazans who normally work in Israel. As tensions mount, some elements within Gaza are contemplating an escalation of attacks on Israel.

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