Cash shipment arrives in Gaza Strip

NIS 100 million comes from Palestinian banks in West Bank; lawmakers slam Barak's approval.

gaza cash transfer erez crossing 248.88  (photo credit: AP)
gaza cash transfer erez crossing 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Amid heavy criticism from Israeli lawmakers, an armored truck carrying 100 million shekels arrived in Gaza from Israel on Thursday to ease a cash crunch. The money originated from Palestinian banks in the West Bank. It marks the first time Israel has allowed money into Gaza since October. It suspended the cash transfers after Gaza terrorists renewed their rocket and mortar shell attacks on Israel, in violation of the truce. Earlier, MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, leveled severe criticism over the decision to transfer the cash, which was made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday. "We don't need to transfer anything," Hanegbi told Army Radio. "Regardless of the rocket fire, as long as Gilad Schalit is being held by them we cannot finance the Hamas regime." Barak's decision, Hanegbi said, was "his own. I do not see that it is backed by any security-related reasoning. In my eyes, it is a mistake. This decision is foolishness and I would be happy if it is retracted." The radio station reported that dozens of family members of Kassam and mortar shell victims in the Negev had sent an urgent letter to Barak and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, demanding that the funds be frozen immediately. There is no reason why Israel should help "finance terror," Matan Galkovich, a resident of Netiv Ha'asara whose daughter died in a mortar attack, said Thursday. "This is what we said three years ago, that we have to completely disengage [from Gaza]," Galkovich told Army Radio. "And besides that, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and Libya are willing to help them. So please, they are already sending money; why do we also have to give them money?" Barak's decision to allow the transfer came in response to a "personal appeal" from Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and a request from Fischer, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. Shas chairman Eli Yishai on Wednesday criticized the move, calling it "a prize for terror." "The National Security Council gets together, and instead of sending a message to Gaza periphery [communities], Sderot and Ashkelon, it sends a message to Gaza and to Kassam launchers," he said. Yoel Marshak, the head of an organization fighting for Schalit's release, also lambasted the defense minister's decision, saying the move would foil the efforts to release the kidnapped soldier. "We have no problem with transferring water and food, but cash-flow will directly fund terror," Marshak warned. Jihad al-Wazir, the head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, said the money would "help" but that Gaza needed a regular supply of cash. The Israeli move, he said, "does not resolve the overall problem of regular inflow of liquidity." Elie Leshem and AP contributed to this report