Whether or not a detailed ceasefire agreement is signed in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinians Monday, Hamas will not resume its rocket launching from the Gaza Strip, a leading Arab daily reported Monday.
Less than 24 hours before the end of a five-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, members of the Palestinian negotiating team told London-based daily Al-Hayat that two options are currently on the table: either a detailed agreement based on the Egyptian ceasefire proposal is signed, or a formula prescribing “quiet in return for quiet” is reached. In either case, Hamas officials have informed the Egyptian mediators that they will not return to war.
However, public statements by Hamas leaders have indicated that any optimism might be premature, and Israel is braced for a possible resumption of hostilities. Sources in the IDF’s Southern Command said Monday afternoon they anticipate Hamas will try to launch a surprise attack and strike a significant blow to Israel — either by way of an infiltration through a cross-border tunnel which has gone undetected by Israel, through small aircraft that can carry explosives, or by firing an anti-tank missile at IDF patrols on the Gaza border. There has also been speculation that Hamas might allow smaller radical groups to resume rocket fire at Israel, if it does not resume rocket fire itself.
Al-Hayat reported that developments on the ground in Gaza indicate that Hamas is not interested in resuming hostilities against Israel. The movement’s interior ministry has reopened its offices throughout the Gaza Strip, receiving citizens’ reports on damage caused by the fighting. Hamas has also deployed policemen on the streets, with a number of officials declaring that the war “is behind us.”
On Monday, Islamic Jihad head Ziad Nakhleh said his group was also not seeking to return to fighting.
“The war is behind us now,” he told the AP. “We are not returning to war.”
The announcement of a donor conference to take place in Cairo under Norwegian and Egyptian auspices once a ceasefire agreement is reached gives an additional incentive for violence to end and reconstruction efforts in Gaza to begin. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to arrive in Cairo later this week to solidify the ceasefire.
A Palestinian negotiator in Cairo informed Al-Hayat of the main gaps between the Egyptian proposal and the Palestinian position.
While Egypt allows for the cancellation in two stages of an Israeli-imposed 300 meter “no-go zone” along the perimeter of the border fence, Palestinians demand that the zone be eliminated immediately upon signing the ceasefire agreement. The Palestinians are also demanding that Israel cease its “punitive measures” in the West Bank and release Hamas members who were freed as part of the Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011 and rearrested last month.
Finally, the source said, Palestinians require the reopening of border crossings with Gaza based on the ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Hamas following Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. The agreement, vaguely, stipulates “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods.” Egypt, he noted, has allowed for Israel to open the crossings “based on criteria agreed upon between Israel and the PA,” wording that the Palestinian delegation finds too vague.
Israel has consistently stated that “quiet” on the part of Hamas would be reciprocated by Israel, despite statements by hard-line members of the coalition such as Tourism Minister Uzi Landau and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who have called for an immediate end to the Cairo talks.
“Hamas is running the show, and we are being led by them,” said Landau. “There is a very unpleasant feeling that Israel wants quiet at any price. We are giving Hamas international status. There is no victory on the ground.”
Meanwhile, public statements issued by Hamas officials over the past day seemed to indicate that Al-Hayat’s optimism may be premature.
“There are 24 hours left for the agreed upon ceasefire, which may not be renewed for a third time,” Hamas negotiator Moussa Abu Marzouk wrote on Facebook early Monday morning. “The [Palestinian] delegation will not forgo any of our people’s rights.”
On Saturday, Hamas official Osama Hamdan said that Israel’s reservations on the Egyptian proposal did not satisfy the Palestinian demands. “Israel must accept the conditions of the Palestinian people or face a long war of attrition,” Hamdan wrote on Facebook.