The Palestinian group Hamas has vowed not to touch “a single penny” of international aid to rebuild the besieged Gaza Strip after Israel bombed the enclave for 11 days. Yahya Sinwar, the head of the group’s political wing in Gaza, on Wednesday, promised the “transparent and impartial” distribution of aid as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas for a sixth day. “We welcome any international or Arab effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip,” Sinwar said. “I affirm our commitment not to take a single penny for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts,” he said. “We have never taken a penny in the past.”
Sinwar’s remarks came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised his country’s help to rebuild Gaza on Tuesday, but stressed that the aid must not benefit Hamas, which rules the coastal territory. The US idea is instead to work with the Palestinian Authority (PA), based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, reducing the risk of strengthening Hamas, which is considered a “terrorist organization.” “for the United States and the European Union.
Sinwar said Blinken’s comments were aimed at widening the divide between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, but insisted they would have no effect on relations between rival Palestinian factions. “We will never be fooled by this trick and we will attack each other,” he said. Separately on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter that the UK had pledged 3.2 million pounds ($ 4.5 million) in emergency aid to the Relief and Works Agency. of the United Nations for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to support those affected in Gaza by the recent hostilities.
According to health authorities, at least 254 people, including 66 children, died in Gaza when Israel bombed Palestinian territory from the air, land and sea for 11 days. At least 12 people, including two children, were killed in Israel in rocket attacks carried out by Hamas and other Gaza-based armed groups, Israeli authorities said. On Tuesday, the European Commission announced that the European Union would increase its humanitarian aid to Palestine by eight million euros ($ 9.8 million).
Abbas’s moderate Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, has clashed with Hamas for years; Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza in 2007 after Hamas legitimately won the 2006 elections, and since then the latter has ruled only the parts of the occupied West Bank that are not administered by Israel. Blinken is in the region to help cement the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that has been in place until now since it took effect on Friday.
The latest outbreak of violence erupted on May 10 when Hamas sent rocket blasts into Israel after Israeli security forces stormed the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy site in Jerusalem revered by Muslims and Jews, injuring hundreds of Palestinians. The violence in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem followed the crackdown by Israeli forces against protesters who were demonstrating against the possible forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in favor of Jewish settlers.
Sinwar warned Israel against the assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, saying the recent escalation was nothing more than a confrontational exercise. “Our people in Jerusalem must be ready to defend Al-Aqsa,” he said, adding that Israel’s disappearance is linked to its violent measures in the city, through incursions into the compound and attacks by the Palestinians in Jerusalem.