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Qatari cash reaches Gaza in campaign to ease tensions

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl rocks during clashes following a demonstration near the border with Israel east of Gaza City
MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)
Clashes along the Gaza-Israel border Friday were less violent than in previous weeks

Palestinian civil servants formed long queues in Gaza on Friday to receive Qatari-funded salaries, as part of efforts to ease tensions in and around the impoverished territory.

For the second consecutive Friday, clashes along the Gaza-Israel border were less violent than in previous weeks, although one Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire and 37 others wounded by gunshots, the Gaza health ministry said.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at points along the frontier but most kept a distance from the separation barrier, correspondents said

A total of $90 million is to be distributed in six monthly instalments of $15 million, according to authorities, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian enclave.

Some exited post offices, where the first installment was being distributed, to show off hundred-dollar bills before the cameras, after several months of sporadic salary payments in cash-strapped Gaza.

The cash was driven into the coastal enclave through Israel late Thursday by Qatar's envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, according to a government source in Gaza.

Qatar has also said it would hand out $100 to each of 50,000 poor families, as well as larger sums to Palestinians wounded in clashes along Gaza's border with Israel.

The Israeli-authorized money transfer appeared to be part of a deal that would see cash-strapped Hamas end months of often violent protests along the border in exchange for Israel easing its blockade of Gaza.

MAHMUD HAMS (AFP/File)

Senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Ahmed Majdalani expressed the discontent of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over the deal.

Emadi had "smuggled the money" into Gaza in suitcases like a "gangster", the official said.

"The PLO did not agree to the deal facilitating the money to Hamas that way," Majdalani, who is close to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, told AFP.

Such a deal harmed Egyptian efforts to reconcile Hamas and the PA and would allow the Islamist movement to consolidate its control over Gaza, Majdalani said.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting forces loyal to the internationally recognized PA in a near civil war in 2007.

- 'Capitulation to terrorism' -

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman criticized the Qatari money transfer to Gaza.

"This is capitulation to terrorism, and in effect Israel is buying short-term calm with money, while severely undermining long-term security," he said, quoted in Yediot Aharonot newspaper on Friday.

MOD

In another Israeli-approved deal, Qatar has started buying additional fuel for Gaza's sole power station, allowing planned outages to be reduced to their lowest level in recent years.

Egypt and the United Nations have been brokering indirect negotiations for a long-term truce with Israel, with which Hamas has fought three wars since 2008.

Deadly clashes have accompanied the major protests along the Gaza border with Israel that began on March 30, generating at times fears of a new war between the Jewish state and the strip's militant rulers.

At least 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the majority shot during protests and clashes, while others have died in tank fire or air strikes.

One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Israel says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop infiltration and attacks, which it accuses Hamas of seeking to orchestrate.

Hamas, the Islamic resistance group which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has reportedly been in negotiations with Egyptian officials toward a truce agreement with Israel.

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