80 percent of the population in the Gaza Strip depend on humanitarian aid.
Deir al-Balah Association for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled in the Gaza Strip serves some 185 hearing-impaired children attending al-Hanan School for the Deaf along with 1,000 beneficiaries each month at the Physiotherapy Hospital. Created in 1997, the association is currently going through a difficult period and has been forced to adopt an "austerity policy", the association’s director-general Khaled Abu Shuaib told The Middle East Eye.
Deir al-Balah is one of the dozens of NGOs threatened with collapse in the Israeli-blocked Gaza Strip, which are now also raising the alarm after the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Interior, which is based in the West Bank, suspended their bank accounts, setting up another obstacle for the NGOs that are already facing a tense pressure from Israel, in addition to decreasing international aid.
Since Hamas won the legislative elections in 2006, the NGOs found themselves trapped in a feud between the two main political parties in Palestine: Hamas which rules Gaza and Fatah; the leading party in the PA.
According to the United Nations, 80 percent of the population in the Gaza Strip depend on humanitarian aid, and the ongoing political conflict between the two parties could seriously impact an already vulnerable population, the NGOs say.
Spokespersons from the coordination body for the NGO sector in Palestine (PNGO) say Palestinian banks have been freezing the bank accounts of organizations once the terms of their boards of directors end; with accounts unfrozen once their new boards' credentials are renewed by the PA Ministry of Interior based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"The Ministry of Interior cannot force banks operating in the state of Palestine to close or freeze any bank account of any association or organization registered with us," Abd Nasser al-Serafi, the director-general of NGOs and Public Affairs at the Ministry of Interior in Ramallah, told MEE.
The Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) has denied any connection to the crisis of freezing NGO bank accounts. While the ministry has been accused of delaying and impeding the releasing of licenses and credentials for the NGO’s new boards.
Abu Shuaib said the Ministry of Interior has not issued credentials for the organization’s new board for two months, leaving the Deir al-Balah association unable to access its funds and hundreds of disabled beneficiaries without access to its services.
The organization’s director said the Ministry of Interior refused to approve the association’s new board, arguing that a number of its members belonged to Hamas and had to be replaced.
The "duplication" of official negotiations between the interior ministries in Gaza and Ramallah has negative consequences on NGOs, Abu Shuaib said.
"Until 2017, we submitted our papers to the Ministry of Interior in Gaza - but since then the Ministry of Interior in Ramallah has forced us to obtain licenses through them and get our paperwork approved through them," he said. "Associations in Gaza suffer from unfair conditions and procedures set by the two ministries.
"Neither of them has the right to put [these procedures] in place," Abu Shaib added. "Associations must be kept out of their political differences.”