Israel wants foreign aid to Gaza disbursed through a voucher system, as a safeguard against donations being diverted to bolster the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers and their arsenal, a government minister said on Tuesday.
Humanitarian agencies put the latest reconstruction costs for the impoverished Gaza Strip at $500 million following 11 days of cross-border fighting in May.
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Qatar bankrolled more than $1 billion worth of construction and other projects in Gaza, some of it in cash, after a war in 2014. The payments were monitored and approved by Israel, and Doha pledged another $500 million in late May.
New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants a shift in policy, Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said.
“The Qatari money for Gaza will not go in as suitcases full of dollars which end up with Hamas, where Hamas in essence takes for itself and its officials a significant part of it,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.
He said Bennett envisaged “a mechanism where what will go in, in essence, would be food vouchers, or vouchers for humanitarian aid, and not cash that can be taken and used for developing weaponry to be wielded against the State of Israel”.
Hamas, which has previously denied using Gaza aid for its military, did not immediately comment.
Mohammed Al-Emadi, the Qatari aid envoy to Gaza, could not immediately be reached for comment.
A Palestinian official told Reuters: “Nothing is final yet.”
Barlev said the proposed aid mechanism should run mainly through the United Nations. He did not rule out continued donations from Qatar, and raised a possibility of European Union assistance.
“Should the mechanism be like this, I have no doubt that Israel would help in the improvement of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
The EU, United States and some other countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
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