Benny Gantz says Israel reaches deal on mechanism for Qatar to resume aid payments to thousands of families in Gaza.
Israel says it has reached an agreement with Qatar and the United Nations on a mechanism to move aid from the Gulf state to the besieged Gaza Strip, bolstering expectations for relief in the Palestinian enclave that has been devastated by Israel’s battle with Hamas.
Aid disbursement after the May fighting has been held up in part by a dispute from Israel about Hamas and debate about how to prevent the group from accessing such funds.
Announcing a deal on Thursday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said he had been in touch with Qatar “to establish a mechanism that ensures the money reaches those in need, while maintaining Israel’s security needs”.
Following a May 21 truce that mostly ended hostilities, Hamas, the Palestinian party that rules Gaza, has agreed not to touch the donor money, which has surfaced as a key issue in Egypt-mediated talks.
Gantz also stated that Israel will continue its “pressure campaign for the release of Israeli soldiers and residents held hostage by Hamas,” alluding to two soldiers who went missing in action during the 2014 Gaza conflict and two civilians who slipped into the enclave independently.
There was no immediate comment from Hamas, which has not detailed the conditions of the four Israelis.
Qatar has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza’s poorest families in recent years. The funds have been a key source of stability for the impoverished territory, where unemployment is hovering at approximately 50 percent.
Israel has suspended the payments since the May war, asking on guarantees that none of the money will reach Hamas. Before the war, $30 million in cash was transported to Gaza in suitcases every month through an Israeli-controlled crossing.
Qatar’s Gaza Strip Reconstruction Committee said it signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN to distribute $100 to each of about 100,000 families starting in September.
During the May fighting, more least 4,000 Gaza homes were destroyed or damaged, with damages estimated at much to $380 million by the World Bank. Egypt and Qatar have each donated $500 million to help rebuild Gaza.
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