OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, Palestine: Hamas has hailed on Friday an agreement reached with Qatar to resume aid to thousands of families in the Gaza Strip.
Israel on Thursday announced it reached an agreement with Qatar for the Gulf country to resume aid payments, a step aimed at easing tensions with the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory in the wake of an 11-day war in May.
“The announcement by the brothers in Qatar about reaching an agreement with the United Nations to bring in part of the Qatari grant is part of an appreciated Qatari effort to ease the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.
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 around 50%.
But since the May war, Israel has blocked the payments, insisting on safeguards that none of the money will reach Hamas.
Under the system before the war, some $30 million in cash was delivered in suitcases to Gaza each month through an Israeli-controlled crossing.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said under the new arrangement, funds would be transferred by the United Nations directly to the bank accounts of Gaza families.
Israel, he said, would maintain oversight over the list of recipients. The payments are expected to begin in the coming weeks.
“We affirm that our people have the right to have aid in all its forms enter the Gaza Strip,” Qassem said.
Hamas has complained about the delays in resuming the payments and threatened to resume fighting if the funds did not begin flowing again.
Earlier this week, Palestinian fighters fired a rocket into Israel for the first time since the war. Israel did not respond to the rocket attack, indicating that diplomatic efforts were making progress.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies that have fought four wars and numerous skirmishes since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian legislative elections.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade on the territory since the Hamas takeover.
The blockade, which restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, has crushed the area’s economy.