GAZA CITY - Israel has refused the entry of Qatari money into the Gaza Strip for a second week in a row, leaving public sector employees hired by Hamas unpaid and increasing tensions in the besieged enclave.
Qatar has promised to pay the salaries of public sector workers in Gaza by donating $15m over six months. For the last two months, the employees have received their salaries, however the lastest batch of money has not been able to enter the Strip, leaving them unpaid.
The Hamas-run finance ministry in Gaza pledged to pay them 40 percent of their salaries next week, if the Qatari grant hasn't arrived.
The cash grants have been travelling from Israel into Gaza via the Erez crossing, accompanied by Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi.
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The Islamist movement has warned that delaying the arrival of the Qatari grant could increase violence along the frontier between the Gaza Strip and Israel, where weekly, and often deadly, demonstrations have been held since March.
In that time, 251 Palestinians have been killed and 14,000 wounded by Israeli attempts to crack down on the protests, according to the Gaza health ministry. One Israeli soldier has died in that period.
"The disruption is an Israeli violation of understandings between the Palestinian factions and the occupation that were reached through Egyptian mediation," Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem, told Middle East Eye.
He said the protests will continue and the delaying of the money would increase the number of protesters along the border.
Qasem said that the demonstrators may resort to "additional steps" if the Israeli obstruction continues.
Within Israel, a wide debate is being waged over the government's allowing of Qatari funds to enter the Gaza Strip, intensified by the proximity of the internal Israeli elections.
According to Israeli media reports, the decision whether to allow the grant to cross Erez may depend on the size and ferociousness of Friday's protest.
An Egyptian security delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip a week ago and met with Hamas officials, as well as other Palestinian factions, in an attempt to calm anger among the movement's members and their leaders over the Qatari grant's delay.
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Meanwhile, Gaza's health ministry announced on Thursday that Beit Hanoun Hospital in the Strip's north has stopped providing services due to lack of fuel needed to operate generators.
"The cessation of vital services at the Beit Hanoun hospital means that 340,000 people are deprived of receiving treatment, surgical procedures and laboratory services, as well as disrupting work in the emergency department," a spokesman said.
He also warned that the suspension of services could affect five other hospitals in the "coming hours", despite the austerity measures practised by the health ministry to lessen the ill-effects of Gaza's chronic fuel shortage.
Hospitals in Gaza have been experiencing a crisis for years, as the Israeli siege on the enclave and inter-Palestinian political division often leave the Strip lacking necessary fuel and medical supplies.
"The absence of any horizon for donor response adds a state of uncertainty to the crisis and warns of worst-case scenarios that may deprive patients of their therapeutic rights," the health ministry spokesman said.