Qatar has transferred $31 million to the Gaza Strip to pay the salaries of some 23,000 Hamas employees there, a Qatari official announced on Tuesday.
But the official, Ambassador Mohammed al-Amadi, who heads the National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, stressed that the money would go to civilian employees only, and not to members of Hamas’ security services.
Speaking at a press conference in Gaza City, Amadi said the wage payments for July would be made via the United Nations and not directly by Qatar, and that is the reason for the distinction between civilian employees and security personnel. He said the salaries would be paid within the next few days, pursuant to a decision made last month.
But Ismail Haniyeh, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, objected to the decision to exclude security personnel and Hamas is trying to persuade Qatar to pay them as well. The security personnel in question are members of Gaza’s police force, not of Hamas’ military wing.
Hamas employees haven’t received regular salary payments in the two years since a nominal unity government was formed between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Instead, they have only received partial payments at random intervals, whenever a foreign government — usually Qatar — happens to provide the money. Consequently, they say, they are living in serious poverty.
Qatar, which is spearheading various projects to repair damage caused in the Gaza Strip during the course of Hamas’ war with Israel in 2014, is considered the Islamist organization’s chief patron.
Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, lives in Qatar, as do several other senior Hamas officials. Palestinian sources say Qatar provides Hamas with money in part to prevent it from becoming fully dependent on any other country, especially Iran.
Over the years, Qatar has tried repeatedly to broker Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, but so far, to no avail. The issue of Hamas employees’ salaries has been one of the chief stumbling blocks to this effort. Hamas demands that the PA pay these salaries, but the PA — which is still paying its own employees in the Gaza Strip even though Hamas has fired them — flatly refuses to pay Hamas employees as well.