GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Qatar resumed its distribution of aid to Gaza on Wednesday for the first time since the May war between Israel and the territory's militant Hamas rulers, this time through a new mechanism that does not involve suitcases full of cash.
The Hamas-run government's official news agency said the money is being disbursed through supermarkets, money exchange shops and other retail stores in a process that will continue over the coming days. The U.N. has said the funding amounts to $40 million.
The aid is part of an informal truce brokered by Egypt and the U.N. in recent years in which Hamas has traded calm for the easing of a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when it seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
Before the most recent war, Qatari diplomats delivered millions of dollars in cash by carrying suitcases through Israel's Erez border crossing. The policy has sparked controversy within Israel, with critics seizing on the optics and accusing the government of bowing to Hamas pressure. Naftali Bennett has vowed to end such deliveries since becoming prime minister in June.
The Qatari aid went to some 100,000 needy families and to pay the salaries of civil servants in the Hamas-run government. The aid to the needy families has resumed, but there is not yet an agreement on the aid for Hamas' government payroll.
In the wake of the Gaza war, the United States pledged to work with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority to rebuild Gaza. But the PA, which has been confined to the Israeli-occupied West Bank since the Hamas takeover, withdrew from the aid agreement.
As a result, the U.N. announced on Monday that the Qatari funds would be distributed through the same mechanism its agencies use in the territory.