GAZA (Reuters) - Qatar will continue providing humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip into next year, the gas-rich Gulf state’s envoy to the Palestinian enclave said on Wednesday, a pledge that may help stave off conflict between Hamas and Israel.
Since the last Gaza war, in 2014, Qatar has with Israel’s approval provided over $1 billion in reconstruction funds and stipends for poor Palestinians. The aid has helped Doha win favour in Washington despite Qatari-Saudi diplomatic tensions.
Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi visited Gaza this week to oversee the donation of 22 fire trucks and other emergency vehicles and discuss proposed new energy and health projects.
“For the first quarter of the year we are continuing, this is for sure. For the rest of the year, I think we will continue, we are looking carefully and positively on this issue,” Emadi told Reuters when asked about future Qatari grants.
In an effort to ease economic hardships and help calm down tensions along the border with Israel, Qatar provided more than $150 million in 2019 to buy fuel for Gaza’s lone power plant and provide monthly cash handouts to nearly 70,000 of the enclave’s needy.
Israeli and Palestinian officials say the Qatari aid helps calm internal Gaza economic hardships that, in the past, have contributed to flare-ups in fighting between Hamas and Israel.
Emadi said Hamas, whose chief Ismail Haniyeh visited Qatar this week, had requested extending the financial aid into 2020.
“After March there is a big chance we will continue this monthly support for electricity and poor people,” Emadi said.
Qatar does not have formal relations with Israel, which disapproves of the Gulf state’s ties to Iran and Hamas. But Israeli officials privately welcome the Qatari largesse in Gaza, seeing a means of preventing humanitarian crises even if the money helps Hamas maintain its rule over the blockaded strip.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Editing by William Maclean