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Israel approves international humanitarian aid to Gaza, working with Qatar

Palestinian workers remove debris from buildings which were destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the summer of 2014, in Gaza City, on August 10, 2016
Mohammed Abed (AFP/File)
Qatar is one of the largest donors to the Gaza Strip

Israel reportedly decided on Thursday to allow for international aid into the Gaza Strip and is working with Qatar to assist the humanitarian situation and prevent a crisis. 

Israel and Qatar have worked together under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), a mechanism established following the 2014 war in Gaza to bring reconstruction materials considered potentially 'dual use' - having both civilian and military applications - into the blockaded enclave through an Israeli-controlled border crossing.

“When you want to do work in Gaza, you have to go through the Israelis,” Mohammed Al-Emadi, head of Qatar’s Gaza reconstruction committee, said during an interview with The Associated Press.

“Without the help of Israel, nothing happens,” he said.

Al-Emadi said that he had developed a cordial but pragmatic working relationship with his Israeli counterpart, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who serves as the defense ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

“You can say it’s good,” he said of their relationship, adding: “To help the people of Gaza, this is our only target and aim.”

Yoav Mordechai

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman apparently made the decision to allow for foreign aid in a meeting on Thursday with COGAT and representatives of Israel's secret service Shin Bet, though the office of the defense suggested that it did not mark a change in policy. 

“This is part of our effort, working very closely with Israel, very closely with everyone in Gaza, to prevent any more escalation and war. We want peace in the region, and to help the people,” Al-Emadi said.

Gaza reconstruction projects are coordinated by the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, with Israel approving the movement of required goods and materials into the Strip, and the United Nations monitoring the deliveries to ensure they are not diverted to any other party.

Qatar is one of the largest donors to the Gaza Strip, and has funded a significant proportion of the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in the 50-day summer war between Hamas and Israel in 2014 which displaced more than a quarter of Gaza's 1.7 million residents and left 100,000 homeless.

The humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip have continued to decline, worsened further by a dispute between rivals Hamas and Fatah over electricity and fuel payments which have led to limited power supply and lack of drinkable water.

The United States decision to suspend $65 million in funding to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), a body dedicated to providing fundamental support services to registered Palestinian refugees, has further impacted the situation.

Kuwait stepped in to contribute $900,000 and about 15 donor countries including Sweden and Japan decided to speed up their donations to keep UNRWA afloat, said Peter Mulrean, UNRWA's representative in New York.

But Mulrean told reporters at UN headquarters that the agency was facing an "existential financial crisis" as it seeks to fill the gap from the US funding cut.

The United States is the biggest single donor to UNRWA which provides schools and health clinics to 5.3 million refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Ashraf Amra (AFP/File)

US Ambassador Nikki Haley last month said the United States would not provide aid to the Palestinians until they agree "to come back to the negotiation table" and reach a peace deal with Israel.

"The US has not yet explained to us the rationale behind its decision on the $60 million," Mulrean said, adding that Washington had not presented any concerns about reforms.

In an interview to Voice of America, Haley said UNRWA needed to be reformed, because they consider "any Palestinian as a refugee" and "what they're teaching in schools is not necessarily the right way to have things run."

UNRWA has been repeatedly accused of promoting anti-Israel sentiment in schools, a charge it has flatly rejected.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will attend a ministerial-level donors' conference for UNRWA to be held next month in Geneva to fill the gap in funding, but it remains unclear if the United States will attend.

STEPHANIE KEITH (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/Archives)

UNRWA's director for the West Bank, Scott Andersen, said all of the agency's services remain up and running for the time being, but that the decision had left many Palestinians anxious. 

"People are frightened and concerned about what this means for them, their families and their future," he said.

Israel has warned that the dire humanitarian situation could spark a new conflict with Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas.

Qatar's rulers have strong ties to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs Gaza but which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Gaza suffers from around 40 percent unemployment and more than two-thirds of its two million residents rely on international aid, according to the United Nations.

Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on the coastal territory for a decade, while Egypt has also largely sealed its border in recent years.

(Staff with AFP)

Comments

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United Nations monitoring is why Gaza is not being rebuilt and why tunnels continue to be built. worthless UN agencies. de-fund the UN!

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