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Hamas Said Threatening To Resume Gaza Protests Unless Qatari Funds Arrive

If Israel does not allow Qatari aid money to reach the Gaza Strip, Hamas could soon act to end the calm which has prevailed in recent months and renew nightly operations as soon as next Friday, Palestinian sources told Kan news on Saturday.

The source further told Kan that if the condition was not met in two weeks, Hamas would start sending units to “penetrate” the Gaza border fence and potentially enter Israeli territory.

Hamas has not yet officially commented on the story, nor has the terrorist movement issued a public ultimatum to Israel.

It was not immediately clear why Hamas was blaming Israel for the delay in the funds’ arrival.

Mohammed al-Emadi, the head of the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee, had been anticipated in the Gaza Strip this week to distribute $150 million in financial aid, Ynet reported last week. Al-Emadi had not traveled to the Strip since late February, citing health concerns linked to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Kan subsequently reported this week that al-Emadi was not expected to come this month either. Qatar’s Emadi, who has frequently visited Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, maintains contacts with the Palestinian Authority, the Strip’s Hamas rulers and the Israeli government.

Some of the funding, however, may arrive in the Strip soon even without al-Emadi visiting in person. Hamas announced earlier this week that government salaries for April would finally be dispensed to public sector workers on Sunday, following several delays.

It would not be the first time that al-Emadi sent along funds in absentia. When the first Qatari grants arrived at the end of March, the transfer of funds coincided with a small private plane traveling from Israel to Doha via Cyprus, returning the same way, according to Flightradar. There was speculation that Israel had thus facilitated transfer of the funds.

No Qatari officials visited the Strip, Ynet reported at the time.

Other factors threaten to increase tensions along the Israel-Gaza border as well, with some political factions in Gaza pushing for the return of weekly border marches held in 2018-2019. Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the committee behind the border protests, told Emirates-based newspaper al-Ain News that the committee was examining the possibility of bringing back demonstrations despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The weekly Great March of Return protests demanded Israel lift its restrictions on Gazans’ freedom of movement and called for the return of Palestinian refugees to areas that are now a part of Israel.The protests were frequently violent, including the hurling of explosives, rocks and firebombs at IDF soldiers, as well as attempts to storm and sabotage the border fence. More than 200 Palestinians were killed by IDF fire at the demonstrations and thousands were injured.

Fifty-three percent of Palestinians in Gaza live in poverty, a June 2018 United Nations report said. Eighty percent depend on international aid, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the main international organization that provides health, education and other services to Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

While there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus inside the Gaza Strip, 72 cases have been recorded in Hamas-run quarantine centers.

By TOI Staff