Hamas reportedly warned Israel Friday that it would restart protests at the Gaza border if Qatari funds were not allowed into the Gaza Strip, causing some to question why there has not been closer examination of Qatar’s apparently close ties to Hamas’s terrorist activity.
“Qatar escaped scrutiny during the most recent Gaza conflict. But it should have received more scrutiny. It is one of Hamas’s top patrons,” said Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Vice President Jonathan Schanzer to The Foreign Desk.
Qatar reportedly promised to send Gaza $360 million throughout 2021, but Israel has been blocking this funding since the most recent clashes with Hamas began.
Qatar has sent funding to Gaza many times previously without any blockage from Israel.
“The fact that Israel has acquiesced to this arrangement does not mean it’s a good thing. It means that Gaza is a very difficult problem for the entire region,” said Schanzer.
While the funding is reportedly intended to go towards Hamas’ salaries, utilities, and to provide aid to Gazan families, “it is widely believed that a portion of these funds are syphoned off to finance the group’s terrorist activities, including rocket making and tunnel building, among others,” according to Schanzer.
Qatar denies that the funding is used to bolster terrorist activity in Gaza with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani reportedly claiming that the money is used for “rehabilitating the Strip.”
The current block on Qatari funding is likely “a semi-permanent fixture in the conflict” that will be resolved once Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority are able to negotiate a more long-term ceasefire, explains Schanzer.
This future deal will likely “include a prisoner swap and other things that Hamas would be able to market as a win to the Palestinian people. The likelihood is that Israel will agree to the Qatari funds as part of these negotiations.”
Previously, “absent other solutions, Israel has agreed to allow these funds to flow as a means to placate a terrorist group that it would rather not fight, particularly as it considers other battles with Hezbollah to its north, or even Iran, further afield in the Middle East.”
In an effort to prevent the funding from being used for terrorist purposes while also providing needed humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Aviv Kochavi is calling for the Palestinian Authority to be in charge of supervising fund distribution, as reported by Haaretz.