Gaza Donors Blackmailing: Hamas

Hamas movement accused on Tuesday, March 3, some in the international community, particularly the United States, of politicizing donations to rebuild the bombed-out Gaza Strip and blackmailing the group to change its policies.

“Some participants, especially the US administration, to a great extent made political use of the Sharm el-Sheikh (donors) conference," Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhum said, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

After a one-day conference the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, international donors pledged on Monday almost 4.5 billion dollars for the reconstruction of the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

But the US and EU stressed that the money would only be funneled through Hamas’ rival president Mohammed Abbas’ government.

The US, which pledged $300 million for Gaza reconstruction and $600 million to support the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s budget shortfalls, was adamant that none of the money would go to Gaza ruler Hamas.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the gathering Washington will ensure the funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the “wrong hands."

Barhum, the Hamas spokesman, lamented that the support direly-need by Gazans is now up to political ends.

"We have warned against this politicization and this meddling."

The donors conference was called by Egypt after Israel’s deadly 22-day war in Gaza, which killed more than 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and wounded 5,450.

The offensive also left a trail of destruction in the sealed-off coastal enclave, home to 1.6 million people.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 21,100 homes have been totally or partially destroyed, and about 1,500 factories and workshops, 30 mosques, 31 government buildings and 10 water or sewage pipes were damaged.

Blackmailing

Hamas officials affirmed that key aim of politicizing Gaza aid was to pressure and blackmail the movement into changing its very principled stances.

"(They) used the need of the Gaza Strip for reconstruction to pressure Hamas and to try to blackmail it into changing its positions," said Barhum.

During her visit to Israel on Tuesday, Clinton maintained the former George Bush administration’s anti-Hamas rhetoric by saying that Hamas must halt the resistance attacks on settlements.

"The first step right now, not waiting for a new government, is a durable ceasefire. But that can only be achieved if Hamas ceases the rocket attacks," " Clinton said at a press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

"These attacks must stop and so must the smuggling of weapons into Gaza."

A day earlier in meeting on the sidelines of the donors conference, the Quartet Middle East group, which includes the US, the EU, UN and Russia, has reiterated its former conditions to lift Hamas out of its isolation.

The Quartet called on Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past Israeli-Palestinian agreements in exchange for an international recognition.

Hamas officials, however, affirmed that it would not cave in to all the pressures.

"Hamas’ positions are fixed and can not be changed," Hamas spokesman and parliamentarian Mushir al-Masri said on Tuesday.

Masri lamented that Clinton’s statements during her first Middle East visit “shows that there will be no new US policies towards the region.

"It is clear that we would be describing every visit by Clinton as an indication of bad luck if the policies of Bush and Rice are going to be applied again in the region."

The Bush administration, which blacklisted Hamas as a terrorist organization, has shunned the governments formed by Hamas since it came to power after sweeping the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006.

It only communicated with Fatah-linked ministers in the Hamas-led national unity government, which was later dismissed by Abbas.

Bush’s America spearheaded an international campaign to isolate Hamas, rejected any contacts with the group and backed a crippling Israeli siege on Gaza.

Late last month, Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair criticized the West’s isolation of Hamas, calling for its inclusion in the peace process.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the West last January to respect the democratic Palestinian elections that brought Hamas to power.

(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)

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