19:15 GMT18 February 2020
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    The implementation of Qatar’s initiative to cover salary expenses for civil servants in Gaza for at least half a year coincided with reports of a new sea passage due to be unveiled between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip; however, the latter hasn’t yet been officially confirmed by any of the sides to the Gaza standoff.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended his decision to permit Qatar to pay the salaries of thousands of Gaza civil servants, saying he deems it to be “the right step,” which would essentially calm tensions and help avoid a Palestinian humanitarian crisis.

    “I think we’re acting in a responsible and wise way,” Netanyahu told journalists, adding that after “serious discussions,” the Israeli security establishment approved the move.

    “I’m doing what I can, in coordination with the security elements, to return quiet to the southern communities, but also to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” Netanyahu said, mentioning the further deteriorating conditions in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

    "Without exception, every step has a price,” the Israeli prime minister remarked before stressing: “When you take steps of leadership, if you can not bear the price, you cannot lead. And I know how to bear the price."

    Earlier, Gazan media outlets reported that Israel had agreed to allow Qatar to transfer funds to the Hamas government in the enclave to cover their civil servants’ salaries for six months. On Friday, Palestinian civil servants began receiving money tranches after months of sporadic salary instalments into the Palestinian enclave through Israel, reportedly in suitcases.

    In a parallel move, Qatar and Israel have reportedly agreed to set up a sea passage between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar wrote on Saturday.  However, no confirmation of the reports has arrived yet. 

    The route will supposedly be monitored by international forces and supervised by “physically present” Israeli security staffers, whereas Hamas allegedly stipulated measures used at the Rafah crossing in the Gaza Strip in 2005, including cameras, computer networks and monitoring by international watchdogs.

    READ MORE: Tensions in Gaza Prompt Ben Gurion Airport to Alter Flight Routes — Authority

    There have recently emerged reports on a temporary truce reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, after last weekend, PA President Mahmoud Abbas met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm El Sheikh, the peace talks mediator. Following the meeting, Abbas reportedly agreed to the peace agreements in order to give Gazans some "breathing space," according to the newspaper Al Hayat.

    The edition noted that Sisi had briefed Abbas on Egypt's efforts to achieve "calm" in the Gaza Strip and halt the ongoing confrontation between Hamas and the PA president's governing Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank. However, The Jerusalem Post later cited a senior Palestinian Authority official as stating that he was unaware of Abbas accepting any such truce agreement.


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    humanitarian crisis, officials, salary, crisis, conflict, standoff, war, Gaza Strip, Israel, Palestine
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