Amid hopes of Gaza ceasefire, is Qatar set to plug a hole in the territory's civil budget?

A deal with Israel is — once again — reported to be close, Anshel Pfeffer says


Intensive talks held this week by Egyptian intelligence officers and Hamas leaders in Gaza were on the verge of reaching an agreement for a long-term ceasefire with Israel.

This was not the first time that the sides were close to a deal.

But on this occasion, Israel had already eased the closure on Gaza, despite a salvo of rockets fired last weekend by Islamic Jihad, while the Palestinians did not retaliate after the deaths of three teenagers on the border fence — indications, observers say, of the willingness to get the job done this time.

The Egyptian-led talks, along with UN special representative Nikolai Mladenov and Qatari diplomats, are said to be in the final straight.

As part of the deal, the Qatari government would make up for shortfalls in Gaza’s civil budget caused by sanctions from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which has slashed funding for civil servants and fuel for Gaza’s power station.

This week, Israel allowed supplies of diesel fuel — paid for by the Qataris — to resume, and expanded the fishing area off Gaza’s coast from six to nine nautical miles.

Left out of the negotiations over Gaza’s immediate future, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a tough speech at the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s central council on Sunday.

He warned that the Palestinians were facing their “most dangerous hour” and repeated past undertakings to reject any peace plan presented by the Trump administration.

Mr Abbas then accused Hamas of serving Israeli and American interests and, while he intends to keep up the sanctions on Gaza in order to pressure Hamas, he promised to continue paying the families of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel on terrorism charges.

The PLO’s central council also voted to end all coordination between the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and Israel. But the move was little more than symbolic: the second resolution of its kind this year, it is non-binding on Mr Abbas and not expected to alter relations with Israel.

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