Hamas officials categorically denied Tuesday a Times of Israel report to the effect that Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had contacted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via interlocutors and had requested IDF restraint after a series border clashes.
“These claims are completely fabricated,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad, who was named by Israeli-American mediator Gershon Baskin in the report, told Anadolu Agency.
The reported message, relayed by Haniyeh through Baskin, came after an escalation of violence between the sides threatened to spiral out of control two weeks ago.
Haniyeh’s alleged message requested Israeli military restraint, after a series of rockets from Gaza hit the south and Israeli planes struck back at sites in the Strip in late January and earlier this month.
But Hamad denied that any correspondence – written or verbal – took place between the two.
“Egypt remains the only mediator with the authority to transfer messages to and from Israel,” he contended.
Baskin founded the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information and was instrumental in brokering the deal that saw kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit released from Gaza in 2011.
Hamas has used the “Baskin channel” a number of times in the past in order to forward information to the Israeli leadership. Baskin is well connected with officials at the Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
Communication between Haniyeh and Netanyahu via Baskin is rare, but Israel and Hamas maintain contacts through a number of channels.
In recent weeks, Egyptian intelligence officers also functioned as intermediaries between the two sides. According to Palestinian officials, the Qataris as have also recently served as middlemen. On humanitarian issues, such as medical evacuations and the entrance of goods and supplies into Gaza, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh remains the primary mediator between Israel and Hamas.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the message.
Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.