AP Interview: Qatari envoy calls for emergency aid to Gaza
JERUSALEM (AP) — Qatar’s point man for Gaza on Thursday urged the world to send urgently needed humanitarian aid to the territory, warning that the war-ravaged coastal strip is “on the verge of collapsing” and could plunge into a new round of fighting with Israel if conditions do not improve.
Mohammed Al-Emadi issued the appeal after a trip to Gaza this week. He has also been meeting with Israeli officials — even though his country does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel — and said that he is working closely with U.N. officials as well.
In a wide-ranging interview in his Jerusalem hotel suite, Al-Emadi said it is the international community’s responsibility to come to Gaza’s aid. He called on Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas leaders to take steps to improve conditions, and he criticized the recent U.S. decision to cut aid to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, calling it “devastating.”
“The people of the world should be awakened to save Gaza and to save a new war,” he said. He said the cost to help Gaza is “nothing” compared to the cost of another war.
“Then the costs will be tremendous, and nobody can bear the costs,” he said.
His comments echo similar warnings by U.N. officials that Gaza is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
Al-Emadi is quite familiar with the cost of war.
Qatar has played a leading role in the reconstruction of Gaza following a devastating war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. Al-Emadi, an architect and owner of a large construction firm, heads Qatar’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee.
The committee has funded hundreds of millions of dollars of projects, including new roads, housing projects and hospitals. But after his latest visit to Gaza, Al-Emadi said the focus is on basic humanitarian aid.
Qatar recently delivered some $9 million to pay for hospital fuel, medical supplies and other emergency goods. But Al-Emadi said his country, an energy-rich Gulf state, cannot sustain Gaza on its own.
Gaza’s problems took a significant downturn after Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Since then, repeated attempts at Palestinian reconciliation have failed. Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade to weaken Hamas, and Israel and Hamas have fought three wars.
Today, unemployment hovers well over 40 percent, tap water is undrinkable and residents receive just a few hours of electricity a day.
Al-Emadi, who visits Gaza every few months, said he was struck by how bad conditions have become on his latest visit.
He said that while in Gaza this time, he was unable to leave his hotel room because his car was surrounded by people desperately asking for help in a scene he described as heartbreaking.
He said the Trump administration’s decision to withhold some $65 million from UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, was especially painful. More than half of Gaza’s 2 million people rely on UNWRA aid.
“This is devastating,” he said. “Any cut of any international organization or U.N. bodies working there will affect the lives of the people.”
He described his work as pragmatic and humanitarian, saying the world cannot wait for the territory’s numerous political problems to be solved.
He called on Hamas to preserve the quiet and to prevent Gazans from clashing with Israeli soldiers along the territory’s border fence with Israel.
He urged Israel to pressure Egypt to open its border with Gaza to allow people to travel in and out, and said Israel should also increase the number of travel permits it gives to Gazans. Both countries severely restrict movement, saying it is a necessary security measure.
Without improvement and given the lack of options for Hamas, Al-Emadi said he fears the sides will head to another war.
“If the international community helps Gaza, this will prevent the war,” he said. “This is our aim, to prevent a war.”