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Qatar has handed over $1bn to Gaza since 2012, says report

Official Israeli memo suggests Qatari cash prevented the collapse of the UNRWA refugee agency
Women hold Palestinian flags as tear gas canisters are by fired by Israeli forces during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip (Reuters)

Qatar has provided more than $1.1bn in aid to the besieged Gaza Strip since 2012 with Israeli government approval, according to a report presented to the Israeli security cabinet in January, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

The Gulf emirate gave the government in Gaza $200m in 2018 alone, with money going towards aid, fuel and government salaries.

According to the report, 44 percent of the money provided between 2012 and 2018 was invested in infrastructure and 40 percent in healthcare and education.

The rest of the money ended up with Hamas and other groups.

Qatar also gave $50m to the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

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An Israeli familiar with the report told Haaretz that the Qatari contribution to UNRWA had kept the organisation afloat after the US pulled funding in September.

According to the Haaretz report, Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mendelbit met with a number of government bodies in order to examine possible methods of transferring funds to Gaza without violating the sanctions placed against Hamas by the international community.

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Controversy over Qatari aid payments to Gaza flared up last month as Israel blocked an aid shipment in the wake of the killing of a Palestinian by tank fire.

A decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to later allow the funds to be transferred was then rejected by Hamas, who claimed it was being used as part of electioneering for the upcoming elections in April.

Eventually, Qatar persuaded Hamas to accept the money but added that the emirate would no longer fund salaries of Hamas employees in Gaza.

From November 2018, Qatar started sending suitcases full of money directly to Gaza following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to prevent the cash being transferred to Palestinian banks.

Three money transfers have taken place so far, including a $10m transfer for fuel and $15m for the salaries of Hamas government officials.

Israel currently receives about $3.8bn yearly from the US in mostly military aid.

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