The ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas which ended Operation Pillar of Defense does not include Egyptian guarantees to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Gaza, said a senior Hamas official on Saturday.
Izzat al-Rishq, a member of the terrorist organization’s political bureau, wrote on his Facebook page that Israel was attempting to protect its image following defeat.
“It is not true what some people are saying that the ceasefire agreement included the approval of Egypt to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Gaza in conjunction with US special units … These leaks are an Israeli attempt to mitigate the impact of defeat,” he posted.
Hamas’s No. 2, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told AP that Hamas would not stop arming itself, signaling tough challenges ahead for Egyptian-moderated indirect negotiations with Israel on a new border deal for Gaza. Talks on a further easing of restrictions are to be held in Cairo on Monday, he said on Saturday.
An Israeli security official has said Israel would likely link a significant easing of Gaza’s border blockade to Hamas’ willingness to stop arming itself. Abu Marzouk rejected such demands saying, “these weapons protected us and there is no way to stop obtaining and manufacturing them.”
This week, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror organization, which is closely allied with Iran, said that the group would also continue to rearm in Gaza, reported Israel Radio.
The published terms of the brief agreement do not appear to include a crackdown on weapons smuggling. However, a more comprehensive set of terms is expected to be hammered out in the coming days, with London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reporting that talks between representatives of Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad began Friday with the help of Egyptian intelligence officials.
Israel’s Channel 2 said Egypt had already intercepted one shipment of missiles en route to Gaza. It also said that in the talks, Israel has indicated a willingness to let Gaza fishermen sail out further from the Gaza coast, though it is insisting on maintaining its naval blockade to prevent weapons reaching Hamas by sea.
Hamas Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that Israel has permitted Gazan fishermen to operate in coastal waters up to 7 kilometers (4 miles) from shore for the first time in three years as part of the ceasefire, according to Army Radio. Senior political sources in Israel confirmed that the measure had been approved as part of the ceasefire, adding the fishing range was doubled from three to six miles, according to Ynet. Palestinian farmers are now also permitted to inspect land in the former no-go buffer zone along the border with Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the flow of weapons into the Strip on Wednesday night, following the announcement of the ceasefire. According to the prime minister, “Israel obviously cannot sit idly while our enemy reinforces itself with weapons of terror.” He added that in a phone conversation that night with the US president, “we decided, President Obama and myself, that the United States and Israel would work together to fight the smuggling of weapons to the terror organizations — weapons, virtually all of which come from Iran.”
After the eight-day conflict, during which the IDF conducted some 1,500 strikes on terrorist cells and infrastructure in Gaza and Hamas pounded Israel with roughly the same number of rockets and missiles, both sides are claiming victory.
IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Friday that all the objectives laid out ahead of Operation Pillar of Defense were met successfully. “In its entirety, the operation was coordinated with the upper echelon. We knew what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to act,” said Gantz. “All the operation’s objectives were successfully met.”
“As the days pass and the dust settles, the other side will realize the price it paid for its actions,” the IDF chief said, adding that people should not get worked up over “the various demonstrations” being held by Hamas and its supporters hailing victory. “The results will speak for themselves,” said Gantz.
AP, Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.