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Ceasefire or fire, Qatar controls Hamas’s moves in Palestine

The outrage of young Gazans took an overt form when the Qatari ambassador visited Gaza, sometime towards the end of 2018. He was met with angry cries and stones thrown by angry Gazans when he was seen instructing a senior Hamas leader with the words: “We want calm today…we want calm.” Hamas leaders were criticised for ‘selling-out’ Gaza for Qatari cash which sweetened the tone of the militant group’s message urging people to not burn tires or approach the electronic fence. This lead to various protests across Gaza in Khan Younis where  the demonstrators accused Hamas of betrayal and “sell-out” became an echoed slogan.

According to Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’s appetite for power led to ‘selling out’ prospect of a formally recognised Palestinian statehood. According to PA, Hamas traded that in exchange for an autonomous non-sovereign enclave in which Hamas could freely exercise its autocratic rule indefinitely over an immiserated and starving population. Abbas Said that due to Hamas’s betrayal the prospect of a two-state solution is fading.

The one who holds the real power is not Hamas but Qatar from whom it is receiving funds.

Using a crisis situation to gain a firmer ground is a standard trick of Qatar. Doha tried to use as much political clout as possible as its competitor were struggling on the home front due to the Arab Spring. Iraq plagued by sectarian conflicts; Egypt battling with post-revolution repercussions and Muslim Brotherhood, Iran in the crisis triggered by economic sanctions; and Saudi Arabia wrapped in succession struggles and controversial Jamal Khashoggi case, while western powers remain cautious of the region as its volatility could affect them.

Qatar used the regional upsetting of the power structure and its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood to its advantage. Doha supported them in the Maghreb (Tunisia and Libya), the Mashreq (Egypt), and later on in Palestine through Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Brotherhood.

In 2012, Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani made an official visit to the Gaza Strip, becoming the first head of state to visit the small Palestinian territory since Hamas took control in 2007. It gave credibility to Hamas and reinforced its position alongside the Palestinian government.

Qatar has provided Hamas with over $1.1 billion from 2012 to 2018 not only to strengthen its relations with Palestine but because control over Gaza makes Qatar a strategic geopolitical power. It not only gives Doha direct access to Europe but also helps it in pinning Egypt down. Qatar plays an active role in even choosing Hamas leaders. Qatar preferred Ismail Haniyeh to be the head of Hamas Political Bureau over Abu Marzouk, who lives in Egypt.

On Tuesday, May 7, Haniyeh issued a statement thanking the Qatari Emir’s decision to ‘support the Palestinian people with $480 million’. Haniyeh said, “I express my thanks and gratitude to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and to the government and people of Qatar for this honorable move reflecting the generosity of Qatar.” The funds flows after deadly violence between Hamas and Israel reached a temporary ceasefire. In February Qatar’s envoy to Gaza Mohammed Al-Emadi has announced that Doha’s aid to the Gaza Strip would no longer be channelled to Hamas, but instead will be allocated directly to specific United Nations-administered humanitarian projects to avoid misappropriation of funds.

But the announcement of $480 million contradicts Qatar’s statement. It concludes the fact how Hamas’s another successful round of the terrorist enterprise is funded by Qatar.

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