Israel announces deal to resume Qatari aid to Gaza

Israel announces deal to resume Qatari aid to Gaza after weeks-long stalemate
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Israel ended a months-long stalemate that blocked urgent Qatari aid to Gaza with a newly-announced "mechanism" to allow the humanitarian funds to enter the besieged strip.
Gazans rely heavily on humanitarian aid to survive [Getty]

Israel on Thursday announced a "new mechanism" for Qatari humanitarian funds to reach Gaza, with money transferred directly to individuals by the United Nations, ending a stalemate over the urgently needed aid. 

Qatari support is seen as a crucial lifeline for impoverished Palestinians living in the Israeli-blockaded enclave.

Prior to a deadly Israeli offensive in May, the flow of funds from Qatar was considered vital to maintaining relative calm between the Jewish state and Hamas.

In a statement on Thursday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would no longer accept the "status quo" that preceded May's 11 days of hostilities.

He said an aid distribution system that saw fuel for Gaza purchased by UN officials with Qatari money had been replaced. 

"Under the new mechanism, financial aid will be transferred to hundreds of thousands of Gazan people by the UN directly to their bank accounts, with Israel overseeing the recipients," Gantz said.

He said Israel was also negotiating with the Palestinian Authority, which controls the occupied West Bank, on the establishment of "an alternative mechanism for the transfer of funds (to Gaza) under their supervision".

Qatar's envoy to Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi, said his country's support to the enclave would be channelled through the UN's World Food Programme, initially benefiting an estimated 100,000 families. 

Most of Gaza's roughly two million people rely on some form of humanitarian aid. 

Israel has maintained a tight blockade on the territory since 2007.

During this year's offensive, Israeli air strikes pounded the strip, decimating hundreds of homes, commercial buildings and health facilities. Thousands were left displaced by the bombardment.

Days after a ceasefire ended the fighting, Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza's reconstruction, but that aid had been on hold.

Sources familiar with the new arrangement said the money will first be transferred to Qatar's UN bank account in New York, then to Ramallah in the West Bank, and from there will be sent to Gaza. 

Israeli-approved recipients in Gaza will be issued UN credit cards to withdraw the funds, the sources said. 

Qatar will transfer an initial block of $10 million to the UN from next week under the new arrangement, which has been approved through the end of the year, according to the sources.