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Hamas welcomes resumption of Qatari aid payments to Gaza

Israel and Qatar reached an agreement for the resumption of aid payments, which will be transferred to Gazans via the UN
Gaza's Higher Governmental Committee for Reconstruction estimated Israel's offensive on the besieged strip resulted in $479m worth of losses.
Gaza's Higher Governmental Committee for Reconstruction estimated Israel's latest offensive on the besieged strip resulted in $479m worth of losses (AFP)

Hamas on Friday praised an agreement reached between Qatar and Israel to resume aid payments to thousands of families in Gaza.

Israel had announced it reached agreement with Doha for the Gulf country to resume aid payments, a step aimed at easing tensions in the wake of Israel's 11-day offensive on the besieged strip in May, which killed at least 248 Palestinians and destroyed or damaged 1,500 economic establishments earlier this year.

Gaza's Higher Governmental Committee for Reconstruction has estimated Israel's campaign resulted in more than $479m-worth of losses.

"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," Al Jazeera quoted Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem as saying.

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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 Ministry of the Economy previously told Middle East Eye. 

However, since Israel's latest offensive in May, the payments have been blocked by Israel, which has been insisting on safeguards that none of the money will reach Hamas, which has served as the de facto ruling party in the Gaza Strip since 2007.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement on Thursday that, under the new agreement, aid from Qatar "will be transferred to hundreds of thousands of Gazan people by the UN directly to their bank accounts, with Israel overseeing the recipients".

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, beginning in September.

"We affirm that our people have the right to have aid in all its forms enter the Gaza Strip," Hamas's Qassem said.

Further Israeli restrictions

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.

In recent months, 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.

The Israeli government argues that mechanisms for aid to enter Gaza need to be guaranteed so it does not reach Hamas.

Earlier this week, a decision by Israel to confiscate 23 tonnes of chocolate bars destined for Gaza due to the same claim - that sales would fund Hamas military operations - sparked ridicule and criticism on social media.

On Wednesday, a group of more than 50 House Democrats sent a letter to the Biden adminstration calling on it to push both Israel and Egypt to fully open their border crossings into Gaza.