According to a report by Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Friday, Hamas has threatened to resume firing rockets into Israel if the country doesn’t release aid money sent by Qatar and destined for the Gaza Strip in the next week.
“Israel's provocations towards Gaza and the poor citizens who are supposed to receive Qatari money tend to escalate tensions and conflict,” an unnamed Hamas source told the paper, according to Israeli media, adding that “if this does not happen, it will take an important decision regarding the mutual ceasefire.”
On Tuesday, Qatari Assistant Minister Lolwah Al-Khater, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said the Gulf emirate would be allocating some $500 million to help rebuild more than 45,000 damaged and destroyed homes in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of 11 days of bombardment by Israeli aircraft and artillery. That is on top of another $360 million pledged to Gaza by Doha in January, itself a continuation of past years’ aid packages.
Naji Sarhan, deputy of Gaza’s works and housing ministry, told the Associated Press on May 22 that losses from the 11-day war last month amounted to $150 million. However, the territory, cut off from most imports by Israel and Egypt, hasn't been rebuilt much since two other wars with Israel in 2009 and in 2014, or the intermittent attacks that have come between them.
The Israeli Defense Forces say when they carry out attacks in Gaza that they are targeting militants from the armed wing of ruling party Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, or from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both of which Jerusalem considers to be terrorist organizations. However, most of the deaths in the recent war were of civilians, not Hamas militants. According to Gaza officials, just 80 of the 254 Palestinians killed in the war were Hamas fighters.
The bombardment began on May 10 after Hamas launched a hail of rockets into Israel, sending more than 4,300 during the course of the war and saying the attacks were made in defense of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestinian settlements in East Jerusalem in danger of eviction by Jewish settlers. Twelve Israelis were killed by the rockets, although most were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.
In the aftermath, Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said that the Gazan government would “not take a single cent” of international aid, adding “we have never taken a cent in the past.” However, he welcomed construction projects by partners from Muslim nations.
Sinwar said that Gaza has “sufficient financial resources… a large part of which are from Iran, and another part comes from Arab and Muslim donors and free people of the world who stand in solidarity with our people and their rights.”
Sinwar’s comments came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority that governs the West Bank and which has a fraught relationship with Gaza since Hamas won the 2006 elections. Blinken promised as much as $75 million in development and economic assistance to the Palestinians, but said that none of it could be allowed to benefit Hamas. Sinwar called this a ploy to keep Palestinians divided.
The Israeli-Egyptian cordon around Gaza has not just restricted construction materials from entering, it has also blocked fuel. In 2018, Qatar began sending diesel fuel shipments to Gaza to keep the strip’s sole power plant operating, helping to increase the number of hours of electricity per day, but not eliminating the rolling blackouts that plague its more than 2 million inhabitants.
In February, Qatar and the European Union reached an agreement to jointly construct a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Gaza that Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said would “resolve the problem of electricity in Gaza completely.”