By D. Bender
Hamas, faced with a disastrous economic situation in Gaza stemming from a freeze on funding from the rival Palestinian Authority (PA), and halted UN reconstruction funds, urgently wants to restore indirect talks with Israel, NRG News reported Tuesday.
Hamas leader Osama Hamdan admitted that the Iran-backed organization was trying to resume negotiations with Israel through Egyptian mediation.
In an interview with Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV, Hamdan said that members of the group recently went to Egypt to promote a meeting with Israeli negotiators in order to conclude the indirect talks which began after last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, but which were suspended by Egypt in October.
Cairo’s move came after a terror attack killed at least 30 Egyptian soldiers in the northern Sinai, in what Egypt said was a Hamas-backed operation.
Hamdan, however, also criticized what he called “the recent Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip,” referring to IDF fire towards the border fence in recent days, intended to repulse potential infiltrators and protesters from the heavily-guarded security perimeter.
UNRWA, for its part, said that it “has been forced to suspend its cash assistance program in Gaza to tens of thousands of people for repairs to damaged and destroyed homes and for rental subsidies to the homeless,” a statement read.
“Over 96,000 Palestine refugee family homes were damaged or destroyed during last summer’s conflict and US $720 million is required to address this need. To date, UNRWA has received only US $135 million in pledges, leaving a shortfall of US $585 million. While some funds remain available to begin the reconstruction of totally destroyed homes, UNRWA has exhausted all funding to support repairs and rental subsidies,” according to the organization.
“It is unclear why this funding has not been forthcoming,” according to Gaza UNRWA Director, Robert Turner, who claimed that “…UNRWA has been a stabilizing factor in a very challenging political and security context and if we cannot continue the program, it will have grave consequences for affected communities in Gaza.”
However, during the 50-day battle aimed at stopping rocket fire and destroying attack tunnels leading into Israel, Israeli and other observers noted that the world body was discovered to have aided Hamas in returning rockets and weapons that were hidden in its schools, and lying about the evacuation of schools during fighting.
According to NRG’s report on Tuesday, Khalil al Hayya, a senior Hamas official, issued an ominous warning that the delay in the receipt of reconstruction funds could serve as inspiration for future terror attacks.
“Our message to a world that is afraid of terrorism and radicalism, is that preventing reconstruction, and the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip, will enable the rise of terrorists and extremists,” he claimed.
However, the Israeli Civil Administration, which deals with day-to-day relations with the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, regularly publishes lists and photos of foods, medicines, and daily goods, including construction materials, which it allows into the coastal enclave, while maintaining a strict maritime blockade to thwart weapons smuggling.
Egypt, in recent months, has demolished a 13-km stretch of housing and evacuated close to a thousand people along its border with the Hamas-ruled territory, in order to build its own security barrier against smuggling and attack tunnels being rebuilt by the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot.
Last November, exiled Jordanian politician, Mudar Zahran, confirmed that Hamas is already trying to confiscate construction materials donated by the international community.
“Aid earmarked for reconstruction is turning up on the Hamas controlled black market, where it is being sold at premium prices,” Zahran charged.
Hamas has annually funneled over $300 million towards weapons and paying military salaries, according to the Shin Bet Israel Security Agency.