Hamas presses for end of Israeli blockade as Qatar payments to Gazans to resume

Plans by militant groups for protests on the Israeli border to go ahead on Saturday

Hamas has praised a new agreement to provide funds to Gazans struck between Qatar and the United Nations, but called on the international community to pressure Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

However, militant groups in Gaza have decided to proceed with plans for protests on the Israeli border on Saturday despite the agreement, under which some 100,000 needy families in Gaza will each receive $100 monthly payments from Qatar via the United Nations.

The arrangement, which was announced on Thursday night following months of contacts, reduces the immediate risk of another round of violence between Gaza militants and Israel but leaves intact the underlying problems facing the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Gaza, with 50 per cent unemployment, is recovering from the 11-day conflict between Israel and militants in May which left 260 people dead and some 2,000 buildings destroyed.


Qatari financial assistance is vital for impoverished Palestinians living in the enclave and before the May conflict the cash was transferred in suitcases each month via the Erez Israel-Gaza crossing.


Israel’s new government led by prime minister Naftali Bennett criticised the cash transfers as “protection”, claiming some of the funds went directly to Hamas.

Under the new arrangement cash transfers will stop completely and the money will instead be transferred to a UN bank account in New York, and from there to banks in Ramallah, which will send it to branches in Gaza.

The UN World Food Programme will issue special rechargeable cards to Gazans allowing them to access the money and the list of beneficiaries will be approved by Israel.

Israel's defence minister Benny Gantz said the new mechanism "will ensure the money reaches those who truly need it and not end up in the hands of Hamas".

In recent days Israel has eased the restrictions it imposed on Gaza, allowing more than 1,350 Gazan traders the opportunity to leave and permitting cement and tyres into the enclave.

In a rare move, Israel declined to respond militarily when a rocket was launched from Gaza at Israel earlier this week.

The deal on the Qatari funding paves the way for talks on a long-term ceasefire.

Egypt continues to promote efforts for a long-term arrangement to prevent violence that will include the reconstruction of Gaza. Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has invited Mr Bennett to Egypt in the coming weeks in the first public visit by an Israeli prime minister to Cairo since 2010.

Hamas insists that any long-term truce includes an end to the Israeli siege. Israel and Egypt have placed Gaza under a tight blockade for more than 15 years.

Israel wants any arrangement to include the return of two Israeli civilians believed to be held in Gaza and the return of the remains of two Israeli soldiers.