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Hamas leader pledges transparent, impartial use of international aid to rebuild Gaza

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, Palestine: Palestinian group Hamas has promised “transparent and impartial” distribution of aid as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held for the sixth day after Israel bombarded the area for 11 days.

Yahya Sinwar, the head of the group’s political wing in Gaza, has said the international aid to would be used to rebuild the besieged Gaza Strip.

“We welcome any international or Arab effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip,” Sinwar said.

“I affirm our commitment not to take a single cent intended for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts,” he said. “We have never taken a cent in the past.”

Sinwar’s remarks came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged his country’s help in rebuilding Gaza on Tuesday, but stressed that the aid must not benefit Hamas, which rules the coastal territory.

The US idea is instead to work with the Palestinian Authority (PA), based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, reducing the risk of strengthening Hamas, which is considered a “terrorist organisation” by the United States and the European Union.

Sinwar said Blinken’s remarks were aimed at widening the divide between Hamas and the PA but insisted they would not affect relations between the rival Palestinian factions.

“We will never fall for this trick and lash out at each other,” he said.

Separately on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter that the United Kingdom had pledged $4.5 million in emergency aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to support those in Gaza affected by recent hostilities.

According to health authorities, at least 254 people, including 66 children, were killed in Gaza as Israel bombarded the Palestinian territory from air, land and sea for 11 days.

At least 12 people, including two children, were killed in Israel by rocket attacks carried out by Hamas and other armed groups based in Gaza, Israeli authorities said.

On Tuesday, the European Commission announced the European Union was boosting its humanitarian aid to Palestine by eight million euros ($9.8 million).

Abbas’s moderate Fatah party, which dominates the PA, has clashed with Hamas for years; Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza in 2007 after Hamas legitimately won the 2006 elections, and the latter has since ruled only the parts of the occupied West Bank that are not administered by Israel.

Blinken is in the region to help cement the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that has so far held since coming into effect on Friday.

The latest flare-up in violence erupted on May 10 when Hamas sent volleys of rocket fire towards Israel after Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – a holy site in Jerusalem revered by Muslims and Jews – injuring hundreds of Palestinians.

The violence in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem followed crackdowns by Israeli forces on protesters demonstrating against the potential forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in favour of Jewish settlers.

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