On Thursday September 24, Israeli officials announced the seizure of fifteen tons of sulfuric acid being shipped to the Gaza strip. The chemical, which was found to be of the type necessary for the manufacture of explosives, and is banned by Israel from being transported into the Gaza strip was labeled as and hidden amongst a shipment of paint thinner.
Israel has generally relaxed its stringent blockade of Gaza this year, allowing in aid, and hoping that if the residents are able to rebuild some semblance of normal lives, they will be less likely to resort to extremism, violence and terrorism. Gazans are almost completely reliant on outside aid for reconstruction projects, and a common focus of this aid is the construction of homes. This shipment of sulfuric acid, which was enough to manufacture 3 tons of TNT was an attempt to smuggle in the chemical amidst the allowances for construction.
Particularly of note is the fact that Israel has begun allowing outside donors to work directly with the terrorist group Hamas to coordinate rebuilding efforts. The Israelis have been forced to admit that Hamas is the only effective administrative body in Gaza, and that if reconstruction is going to be achieved in such a way as to deter future violence, they essentially have no choice but to allow Hamas to participate in the reconstruction.
By far the biggest donor to these rebuilding efforts has been Qatar, who has pledged $1 billion to the rebuilding efforts, dwarfing pledges by the U.S., EU and other Muslim countries. Qatar’s efforts in Gaza are being coordinated by Mohammed al-Amadi and include major house building initiatives. Qatar has this year already been the primary sponsor of truckloads of construction materials being shipped into Gaza. The Israeli government believes that Qatar is the only donor actively sponsoring construction in Gaza, and will allow them to continue to do so despite reservations about Qatar’s track record of financing Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
It is extremely problematic that construction aid to rebuild Gaza is being used to shield Hamas’s importation of bomb making materials. There are already major concerns about Qatari charities financing terrorism and NGOs diverting money to Hamas is nothing new either. This of course all goes back to Al Qaeda which pioneered terrorist financing via charities. If foreign aid is to be the next frontier in terror financing, it could shake the foundations of the entire field of international development. Qatar is becoming a major donor nation, but does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and has a long, questionable history of supporting Hamas. Who is watching to make sure that rebuilding aid for Gaza really rebuilds Gaza, and does not go towards building bombs whose use will prompt more destruction?
The world must do a better job combatting terrorist finance to ensure that the needy receive the assistance they require and that when donations are made they help build things, not blow them up.