November 29, 2006

arab FM enters Gaza Strip carrying case with $20M in cash

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar on Tuesday entered the Gaza Strip carrying a suitcase containing $20 million in cash. Al-Zahar raised the funds, which he brought in through the border with Egypt, over the past two weeks during a series of visits to several arab countries.Various palestinian officials, using their VIP status, have brought millions in arab-donated dollars into Gaza in recent months, despite international sanctions against the group. In June, al-Zahar brought 20 million euros across the border, stuffed in 12 suitcases. Palestinian law permits cash to be carried over the border as long as it is declared.The international community has said it will not lift the sanctions unless Hamas recognizes Israel, accepts past peace deals and renounces violence, conditions Hamas has rejected. The sanctions have crippled the government, making it largely unable to pay salaries to its 165,000 employees. The efforts by Hamas to bring cash into Gaza have enabled the government to make small payments periodically, but have done little to ease widespread hardship. Negotiations between the feuding Fatah and Hamas factions to create acabinet of technocrats to free the government of the internationalrestrictions placed on it are ongoing.