U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt tweeted Tuesday that the United States “appreciates the efforts of the U.N., Egypt, Qatar and Israel to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza and efforts to achieve the goal of an enduring cease-fire. The U.S. thanks Qatar for its contribution to providing additional electricity to Gaza for the coming period.”
The comments came after two trucks delivered some 9,000 gallons of fuel into the Gaza Strip earlier Tuesday.
Qatar paid Israel, through the U.N., for the fuel transfer, in an effort to ease conditions in the enclave and stem any escalation in Hamas-Israeli violence.
The shipment was a potential slap to Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who opposed the foreign relief plan. Gaza is controlled by Abbas’ rival, the Hamas terrorist group, and the Palestinian president has been using economic pressure in order to wrest back control.
Egyptian and Palestinian officials confirmed to Israel Hayom Abbas had worked behind the scenes to torpedo the transfer.
A senior Palestinian official said Abbas decried the step in a phone call with U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov, accusing him of bypassing the Palestinian leadership. Abbas also warned that he would order the PA’s Finance Ministry to cease salary payments for the UNRWA officials who are to receive the shipment in Gaza.
A senior Egyptian official told Israel Hayom that Abbas was “doing everything in his power to escalate the situation in Gaza and prevent Hamas from achieving diplomatic victories.”
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York: “The secretary general expresses his deep appreciation to the Government of Qatar for its $60 million contribution, which made this delivery possible and will allow its continuation for the coming months.”
Seven more trucks are expected to cross into Gaza on Wednesday, Dujarric said. Qatar’s donation is intended to provide fuel to Gaza’s power plant for six months, local sources said.
The cash-starved plant has been providing Gazans with only around four hours of electricity daily.
A spokesman for Ramallah-based PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah voiced disapproval of the fuel delivery.
“Any international financial aid to the Gaza Strip should be through, or with the coordination of, the Palestinian government,” he said, in order “to preserve Palestinian unity” and to stop any plans to separate Gaza from the West Bank.
A Qatari official said Doha planned to help with Gaza’s power crisis “at the request of donor states in the United Nations, to prevent an escalation of the existing humanitarian disaster.”
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday that Qatar “was trying to help” prevent a Gaza flare-up.
Steinitz accused Abbas, who has restricted funding for Gaza, of “seeking to make gains on two counts: by encouraging a conflict in which Israel will clobber Hamas and over which he will then be able to clobber Israel on the world stage.”
Months of Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks between Hamas and Abbas have been held up by power-sharing disputes.
“Abbas believes that if he keeps the Gaza closure tight, it will make Hamas accept his reconciliation plan, which would give the Abbas government full control – or the people in Gaza will launch a revolution against Hamas,” said Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri.
“This is making it easy for others to bypass the Palestinian Authority. … They are trying to give them [Gazans] a sedative, sometimes through Egypt, and this time through Israel.”
Meanwhile, Arab media on Tuesday reported that Egyptian General Intelligence Service head Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel had embarked on a shuttle diplomacy mission to Israel, the PA and Jordan, at the behest of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to try salvaging Egyptian mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas.
According to the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed daily, Kamel has been instructed to inform Abbas that he must “cooperate with the initiative to reach understandings in Gaza or Egypt will stop its involvement in inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts and its responsibility toward the Gaza Strip.”