GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The international community has sent billions of dollars in aid to the Gaza Strip in recent years to provide relief to the more than 2 million Palestinians living in the isolated, Hamas-ruled territory.
The aid is intended to ease the burden on civilians of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed on Gaza when the Islamic militant group seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
Israel says the heavy restrictions on trade and movement are needed to keep Hamas from enhancing its military capability, while critics view it as a form of collective punishment. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since 2008, the most recent in May.
Israel closely supervises aid to try to ensure it bypasses Hamas. But the Hamas-run government benefits from foreign countries footing the bill for schools, hospitals and infrastructure, allowing it to conserve its own resources, including the taxes and customs it collects.
Here’s a look at the main forms of international aid to Gaza:
— From 2014-2020, U.N. agencies spent nearly $4.5 billion in Gaza, including $600 million in 2020 alone. More than 80% of that funding is channeled through the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, who make up three-fourths of Gaza’s population. Some 280,000 children in Gaza attend schools run by UNRWA, which also provides health services and food aid.
— Qatar has provided $1.3 billion in aid to Gaza since 2012 for construction, health services and agriculture. That includes $360 million pledged in January for 2021 and another $500 million pledged for reconstruction after the war in May. Qatar’s aid also goes to needy families and to help pay Hamas government salaries.
— The Palestinian Authority says it will spend $1.7 billion on Gaza this year, mainly on salaries for tens of thousands of civil servants who stopped working when Hamas took over in 2007.
— Egypt pledged $500 million in aid after the May war, but it’s unclear how much has materialized. It sent construction crews to clear rubble over the summer.
— Germany and other European countries will spend nearly 70 million euros ($80 million) on water projects in Gaza this year, in addition to their contributions to UNRWA.
— The U.S. has spent at least $5.5 million in Gaza this year on cash assistance and health care, in addition to contributing $90 million to UNRWA operations in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
— Israel is granting work permits to 10,000 Gazans who undergo security vetting, providing a crucial source of income for families with no known connection to Hamas.
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