Qatar is providing the Palestinian Gaza Strip with millions of dollars in aid for salaries as well as fuel to help ease an electricity crisis, despite deadly clashes between Hamas and Israeli forces.
In the latest clash east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, six Palestinians were killed.
The dead included a local commander for Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the brigades said in a statement. He was identified as Nour Baraka.
Qatar will also hand out $100 to each of 50,000 poor families, as well as larger sums to Palestinians wounded in clashes along the Gaza-Israel border
On Friday, Palestinian civil servants began receiving payments after months of sporadic salary disbursements in cash-strapped Gaza, with $15 million delivered into the enclave through Israel in suitcases by Qatar.
A total of $90 million is to be distributed in six monthly instalments, Gaza authorities said, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas.
The Gulf emirate has also started buying additional fuel for Gaza’s sole power station, allowing outages to be reduced to their lowest level in years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended his decision to allow Qatar to transfer the cash to Gaza despite criticism from within his own government over the move, saying he wanted to avoid a war if it wasn’t necessary.
“I’m doing what I can, in coordination with the security establishment, to return quiet to the southern communities, but also to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” Netanyahu said late Saturday, referring to Israeli towns near the Gaza border and deteriorating conditions in the enclave.
Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s education minister and right-wing rival, compared the cash flow to “protection money” paid to criminals.
Lieberman said he had opposed “transferring the money to Hamas”.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and recent months of unrest have raised fears of a fourth.
Deadly clashes have accompanied major protests along the Gaza-Israel border that began on March 30.
At least 227 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the majority shot during protests and clashes, since the demonstrations began, while others died in tank fire or air strikes.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in that time.
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