Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has promised that it won’t siphon funds earmarked for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Gaza, following days of devastating Israeli strikes on the territory.
Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas’ political wing, said there would be a “transparent and impartial” distribution of aid to help Gazans recover from the nearly two weeks of cross-border violence.
While speaking at a news conference in Gaza City, Sinwar said that he would welcome any “international or Arab” effort to help rebuild in the aftermath of the Israeli strikes, which leveled buildings and infrastructure in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
“I affirm our commitment not to take a single cent intended for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts,” he said. “We have never taken a cent in the past.”
The remarks were made after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced $110 million in new economic assistance to the Palestinians, including $5.5 million in relief to Gaza. In total, the Biden administration plans to send $360 million in “urgent support” to the Palestinian people, Blinken said during a visit to Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, on Tuesday. He added that Washington will “work with our partners to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance,” but did not go into further detail about the subject.
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Israel has accused the group of diverting international aid to use for military purposes. The Jewish state has enforced a blockade on Gaza since 2007, and has reportedly insisted that any aid earmarked for the Palestinian territory travel through an internationally-controlled “mechanism” in order to reach residents directly.
On Wednesday, Sinwar delivered his first public speech since the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel ended with a ceasefire.
“The greatest gift Israel can give me is to assassinate me,” he said during the address, insisting that he would prefer to “die a martyr from an F-16 than to die of coronavirus or [another] disease.” He also controversially posed with a small child armed with what appeared to be an assault rifle.
Officials in Gaza claim that at least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, were killed during the latest conflict. Rockets and other projectiles fired from Gaza killed twelve Israelis, including one child, one Arab-Israeli teenager and an Israeli soldier. Numerous buildings in several Israeli cities were also damaged by rockets. The ceasefire has now held for one week but tensions remain high.
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