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As rockets raise tensions, Hamas says all Gazans want ceasefire

Official says Palestinian factions united in desire to keep calm with Israel, and missile-lobbing Salafists just want attention

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian fighters from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine during a military graduation ceremony in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 29, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinian fighters from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine during a military graduation ceremony in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 29, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Hamas is not interested in breaking a ceasefire with Israel and would like to see a more active Egyptian role in mediation between it and the Jewish State, a number of movement officials have publicly indicated in recent days.

Speaking to Egyptian daily al-Youm as-Sabi’ on Monday, Gaza-based official Salah Bardawil said that given regional instability and the situation on the ground both in Gaza and the West Bank, his movement has no intention of inflaming the security situation in Israel’s south.

“The Hamas movement does not want escalation with Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “It is interested in calm.”

Bardawil’s comments followed an uptick in tensions between Israel and Gaza after three cases of rockets being fired out of the Palestinian enclave in recent weeks.

A local Salafi faction in Gaza affiliated with the Islamic State, the Omar Hadid Company, claimed responsibility for two of the attacks, announcing it had done so to embarrass Hamas.

The attacks drew Israeli airstrikes on Hamas buildings and underscored rising difficulty the de-facto rulers of the Strip are having reining in more hard-line salafist factions.

But Bardawil told the Egyptian daily that “all Palestinian factions” support the ceasefire with Israel, reached following the 50-day Operation Protective Edge last summer.

Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil (YouTube screenshot)
Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil (YouTube screenshot)

“There are some individuals who take revenge on Hamas for ideological reasons by launching missiles at Israel in order to appear on stage,” he said.

On June 2, Hamas shot and killed a Salafi activist in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza, claiming he had tried to resist arrest. The movement’s interior ministry issued photos of suicide belts and RPG launchers supposedly found in his home.

Israel, which imposes a land and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, considers Hamas a terror organization and refuses to engage with it directly.

Israel fought a 50-day war against Hamas-led fighters in and around Gaza over the summer, devastating parts of the Palestinian enclave. During the fighting, Hamas and other terror groups fired over 4,500 rockets into Israel. The sides agreed to stop fighting in late August, after Egypt managed to broker a tacit agreement between the sides.

Egypt also takes a hard line against Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which opposes President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s rule. Earlier this year, Cairo blacklisted Hamas, though the decision was overturned earlier this month.

As part of its recent rapprochement with Egypt, Hamas has increased its cooperation with Egyptian security, agreeing to submit a list of jihadist who have crossed from Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian media has reported.

The deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, pleaded with Egypt Sunday to resume its role as mediator with Israel. Abu Marzouk was commenting on an Egyptian court decision to remove Hamas from its list of terror organizations.

“We wish for Egypt to renew its habitual role on the Palestinian issue, and especially the matter of reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas] and the indirect negotiations [with Israel] which began during the war and stopped at its end,” the Hamas leader wrote on his Facebook page Sunday.

In a later Facebook post, Abu Marzouk denied that Hamas was already negotiating secretly with Israel, an accusation leveled by Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, September 18, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)
Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, September 18, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

“When we decide to opt for indirect negotiations [with Israel] it will be no secret. We have done so during the Loyalty to the Free deal and during the Gaza War,” he said, referring to a 2011 agreement that saw Hamas release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners.

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