Middle East Monitor / June 29, 2021
An agreement between Qatar and Israel is being put together for the transfer of humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip through the UN as early as this weekend, Wallah news reported on Tuesday. Transfers of cash directly to the de facto Hamas authorities in Gaza have been rejected by the Israelis, who would be happy for it to be transferred via the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Both Qatar and Hamas won’t accept this. The PA is known for its corruption.
Humanitarian aid for Gaza is getting through despite the harsh criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
While the issue of Qatari support is under discussion, an Israeli security delegation is going to Cairo to discuss the issue of a prisoner swap with Hamas mediated by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Guided by the Israeli defence establishment and political echelon, prisoner swap discussions may be conducted through several channels.
According to senior Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officers, limited agreements such as confidence-building measures will lead Israeli politicians to reduce restrictions on the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip. “Hamas wants to go back to the days before Operation Wall Guard [Israeli offensive on Gaza between 11 and 21 May during which 260 Palestinians killed, including 66 children and 41 women],” senior sources told Wallah. The answer at the moment is “no”.
However, Israeli security officials said on Monday that if relative calm continues in the Gaza Strip with the entry of Qatari money, Hamas could be given further relief at the border crossings next week. The ban on the export and marketing of various goods from Gaza will continue, as will the ban on the entry of steel and money needed for reconstruction projects.
If Hamas wants this to change, said the officials, then some details about the Israeli prisoners being held in Gaza would be regarded as a confidence-building step. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is facing a complex dilemma, they added: should he decide to escalate the situation against Hamas or provide humanitarian relief to Gaza?
“They are trying to find intermediate formulas,” said the security officials. They warned, though, that it looks as if the IDF is “preparing for an escalation”.