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Egypt and Qatar reach 'breakthrough' on Gaza civil servants salaries

Haaretz reports that an agreement is underway to allow Qatar to send fuel to Hamas, which would then sell it and use profits to pay employees
gaza-palestinian-employees-hamas-nov-2021-afp
A Palestinian man receives financial aid at a supermarket in Gaza City on 15 September 2021 as part of the UN's humanitarian cash assistance programme, supported by the state of Qatar (AFP)

Egypt and Qatar agreed Monday on a mechanism for paying salaries to civil servants of the besieged Gaza Strip after seven months of frozen payments, Haaretz reported.  

According to sources that briefed the Israeli newspaper on the outcome of talks between Qatar, Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian group Hamas that rules Gaza, an agreement “began taking shape” in November.   

According to Haaretz, a new agreement will allow Qatar to provide money for employees of the Hamas-run administration indirectly by buying fuel from Egypt. The fuel would then be sent to Hamas through Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza, then Hamas would use the profits from selling the fuel to pay the salaries of civil servants. 

The salaries are estimated to amount to $10m a month. 

“Officially, Israel insists that it isn’t a party to the agreement, which is between Qatar, Egypt and Hamas, and therefore refuses to comment on it,” Haaretz reported.

“But in reality, according to people involved in the issue, the fuel shipments - which are slated to start soon - wouldn’t be possible without Israel’s tacit consent,” the report added.

Middle East Eye has reached out to the Israeli foreign ministry for comment.

Qatari money

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade on the territory since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and took control of the Strip, with the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza severely restricted.

The hostilities in May between Israel and Hamas have worsened the impacts of the blockade. 

The 11-day bombing campaign by Israel killed at least 248 Palestinians and destroyed more than a dozen hospitals and clinics, along with more than 1,000 residential units. 

Furthermore, the two million Palestinians living in Gaza have faced a further tightening of Israeli restrictions on the entry of goods. Israel has prevented the import of materials and equipment into Gaza and imposed strict restrictions on exports, leading to a state of "paralysis" in several sectors of Gaza's economy.

Qatar has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza's poorest families in recent years, amounting to some $30m per month since the 2018 Great March of Return.

The funds have been a key source of stability for the impoverished territory, where unemployment has risen to 75 percent, an official in Gaza's economy ministry previously told Middle East Eye. 

However, following Israel's latest offensive in May, the payments were blocked by Israel for several months, as the Israeli government argued that mechanisms for aid to enter Gaza needed to be guaranteed so that it did not reach Hamas.

In August, however, Qatar and Israel reached an agreement to resume aid payments to thousands of families in Gaza.