Hamas says it will not touch ‘a single cent’ of international aid to Gaza

US pledges $75m in relief following 11-day bombardment, while Ireland offers €1.5m

A Palestinian woman walks past a destroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22nd.  Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

A Palestinian woman walks past a destroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22nd. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

 

Hamas’s political chief Yahya Sinwar has pledged a “transparent and impartial” distribution of aid in Gaza and said his administration will not touch “a single cent” of foreign humanitarian or reconstruction aid delivered in the wake of Israel’s 11-day bombardment.

The Israeli attacks followed Palestinian protests in East Jerusalem that prompted Hamas, the militant Islamist group that runs Gaza, to fire rockets into Israel.

“We welcome any international or Arab effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip, ” Mr Sinwar said. “We have never taken a cent in the past.”

The US has promised $75 million (€61 million) in aid, including $5.5 million in emergency relief, and $32 million for UNRWA, the UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees. The EU has offered $9.8 million for relief, Britain $4.52 million, and Ireland $1.83 million (€1.5 million), while Egypt and Qatar each pledged $500 million for reconstruction.

Mr Sinwar was responding to remarks by US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who said aid would not be given to Hamas, which is regarded by the US and EU as a terrorist organisation. During meetings in the West Bank, Mr Blinken argued that funds for Gaza should be handled by the Palestinian Authority, although UN agencies and humanitarian organisations have been dealing with Hamas ministries daily for 14 years.

Slow delivery

The US stance could complicate and slow delivery of emergency financial aid as the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has previously withheld payments for fuel for Gaza’s power plant and even held up delivery of fire trucks to the strip.

Mr Sinwar said funnelling aid through the authority is intended to deepen divisions between Palestinians.

Relations between Fatah and Hamas have been difficult since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 after winning a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature in the 2006 election.

Rebuilding Gaza poses a stiff challenge as, under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, a temporary measure imposed after the 2014 conflict, Israel controls every aspect of the provision of aggregate, cement and steel bars.

Vendor applications

Israel also exercises case-by-case power of approval over all recipient and vendor applications and monitors storage and construction sites by means of video cameras and drones.

Instead of easing Israel’s blockade, this has put Gaza under a tighter blockade, the UN has said. The measure causes delays, benefits Israeli companies, which supply 65 per cent of the construction materials, and “provides for Israel’s security concerns while failing to meet the minimum needs for Gaza’s reconstruction”, it says.

According to Palestinian and Israeli health authorities 254 Palestinians – including 66 children – were killed in Gaza and 12 in Israel, two of them children, during recent rocket and bomb exchanges.