A member of Palestinian security forces gestures as a fuel tanker arrives at Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 15, 2018.
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction on Tuesday accused Qatar of working with Israel to perpetuate the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fatah also accused Qatar of meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.
Qatar has donated $60 million for help provide fuel for the Gaza Power Plant for the next six months.
For the first time, however, the payment process skipped over the Palestinian Authority. Typically, Qatar would have sent the money to the PA, which then would have purchased the fuel from Israel, to transfer to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
This time around it donated the funds to the United Nations, which then purchased the fuel from Israel, thereby leaving the Palestinian Authority out in the cold.
The gestures alleviates the humanitarian suffering of the two million people in the Hamas-ruled Gaza enclave, who have been living on four to five hours of electricity per day, followed by 12 to 16 hours of blackouts.
Fatah and Abbas have reportedly expressed outrage over the move, which they say will help Hamas tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip and sabotage Egyptian efforts to end the rivalry between the two Palestinian parties.
Abbas has imposed severe economic sanctions on Gaza, including refusing to pay for fuel, in hopes of forcing Hamas to relinquish its 11-year hold on Gaza and allow for Fatah to rule the enclave. Funding the fuel harms those efforts.
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A senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that any aid to the Gaza Strip should be channeled through the Ramallah-based PA government and in coordination with it.
“We’re witnessing an attempt to bypass the legitimate leadership of the Palestinians,” the official said. “Hamas and Qatar are part of a suspicious conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause and destroy our national project.”
On Tuesday, two truckloads of fuel, amounting to 35,000 liters each, were delivered to Gaza. Seven more trucks are expected to enter on Wednesday. Within the next month, 15 trucks are expected to enter on a daily basis.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres “expresses his deep appreciation to the Government of Qatar for its $60 million contribution,” according to a statement from his office.
His office added that “Gaza remains an integral part of the two-state solution based on relevant UN resolutions.”
“We hope that relieving the humanitarian pressure in Gaza will reduce tensions and the threat of escalation. Furthermore, we call on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to seriously engage with Egypt on reconciliation and move forward with implementing the October 12, 2017 Cairo Agreement,” the UN said.
Earlier this week, Hamas said Abbas was trying to block the transfer of the Qatar-funded fuel to the power plant in the Gaza Strip, although Israel has given a green light to the initiative. A senior Hamas official said Abbas threatened to punish the power plant’s employees, should they facilitate the delivery of the fuel. Abbas is also said to have threatened to stop dealing with any Israeli company that is involved with the fuel delivery to the power plant.
“The Qatari intervention under the motto of humanitarian aid is in fact a direct intervention in Palestinian internal affairs,” said Mohammed Al-Lahham, member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. “From the outset, Qatar’s intervention has been aimed at supporting Hamas, thus backing and deepening the division [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip].”
Lahham told the Quds Net news agency that Qatar was “cooperating with the Israeli occupation in order to consolidate the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to make it appear as if the Palestinian Authority was imposing a blockade on the Gaza Strip.”
Qatar, the Fatah official claimed, “does not support the Palestinian people. Rather, it supports its inter- ests in deepening divisions among the Palestinians so that the Gaza card will remain in its hands in the regional conflict. Why hasn’t Qatar built one kindergarten in the West Bank?”
Lahham said that Hamas was doing its utmost to maintain its rule over the Gaza Strip and was not interested in ending the crisis with Fatah.
He claimed that Israel’s decision to allow the fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip was a goodwill gesture aimed at feeling the pulse of Hamas ahead of a possible truce deal between the two sides.
Also Tuesday, Abbas told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he was categorically opposed to any scheme aimed at prolonging the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abbas relayed his position to Merkel during a phone conversation between the two on Tuesday, according to the PA’s official news agency, Wafa.
Abbas, the news agency said, affirmed to Merkel his commit- ment to achieving Palestinian national unity and ending the rift with Hamas.
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