Egypt presents new plan to return control of Gaza to PA

Egypt presents new plan to return control of Gaza to PA

Report in London-based al-Hayat says Cairo also delivered an Israeli message to Hamas saying truce requires an end to border protests

This May 22, 2018, file photo shows Palestinians waiting to cross the Gaza-Egypt border to the Egyptian side at the Rafah crossing. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)
This May 22, 2018, file photo shows Palestinians waiting to cross the Gaza-Egypt border to the Egyptian side at the Rafah crossing. (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)

Egypt has reportedly proposed a new framework for Palestinian reconciliation and an Israel-Hamas truce that would include an Israeli message to Hamas calling on the terror group to end its weekly protests at the Israel-Gaza border fence and maintain a 500-meter no-go area near the border.

The plan, reported Sunday by the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat, would see control of Gaza revert to the Palestinian Authority, which lost the enclave to Hamas in a violent coup in 2007.

It would also put in place limits on Hamas’s military wing, including the police, judiciary and internal security agencies in the Strip. It also reportedly calls on Hamas to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines in the West Bank and Gaza.

The report came a day after Hamas released a statement saying that the parties had held a “deep conversation about ways to end the siege on the Gaza Strip and alleviate the suffering of our people” in the coastal enclave.

According to the Egyptian plan, during the transition from Hamas rule to PA control, the Ramallah-based PA would pay half the salaries of tens of thousands of Hamas-appointed officials in Gaza’s government agencies, the report said. The PA paid those salaries for years but stopped earlier this year in a bid to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, leading to a loss of one of the blockaded territory’s major sources of income.

Officials in both Hamas and the Fatah group, which controls the PA, have said the new framework is unlikely to return the warring Palestinian factions to the negotiating table. Fatah officials told al-Hayat that the Egyptian proposal suggests Cairo is closer to the PA’s position in the reconciliation efforts than to Hamas’s.

Egypt brokered a deal between Hamas and Fatah to bring the West Bank and Gaza under one government in October 2017, raising Palestinian hopes for the possibility of reconciliation. However, the rivals have failed to implement the agreement.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, center right, and Hamas’ representative, Saleh al-Arouri, center left, sign a reconciliation deal during a short ceremony at the Egyptian intelligence complex in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The new plan was presented by Egyptian intelligence officials to Hamas leaders in Gaza on Saturday. Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh attended the meeting, al-Hayat reported.

The meeting reportedly did not go well. Hamas officials warned their Egyptian counterparts that continued PA sanctions, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s warning that new sanctions against Hamas and Gaza were in the works, amounted to “playing with fire.”

The Egyptian officials were slated to meet PA officials in Ramallah on Sunday to discuss the plan.

Last week, the Egyptian General Intelligence Services and a Fatah delegation met in Cairo, where they held talks about reconciliation, according to Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

On Thursday, UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the failure to implement the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement was a key factor behind the Strip’s worsening humanitarian situation.

Abbas has tried to clamp down on transfers of fuel and other supplies into Gaza as a way of pressuring Hamas.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gives a speech on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan on May 18, 2018, at the Great Mosque in Gaza City. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

“Fatah and Hamas must engage in earnest with Egypt in order to bring back the legitimate government to Gaza,” Mladenov told a Security Council meeting.

He also warned that emergency fuel would soon run out, putting “health, water and sanitation facilities at immediate risk of shutting down.”

Aside from mediating Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts, Cairo has also been central to brokering periods of calm amid waves of violence with Israel along the Gaza frontier.

The talks came as tensions again began to heat up along the border, with large protests near the security fence and the reappearance of incendiary balloon and kite launches after a several-week lull.

On Saturday evening, Israel said it fired at a cell in the northern Gaza Strip launching incendiary balloons toward Israel. There were no further details.

Hamas officials have demanded that any long-term ceasefire include the lifting of restrictions on movement into and out of Gaza.

Both Israel and Egypt enforce a number of restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel says its blockade is necessary to keep Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip from arming or building military infrastructure.

Palestinians bid farewell as they prepare to travel into Egypt after the Rafah border crossing was opened for three days for humanitarian cases, in the southern Gaza Strip April 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Last month, Egypt hosted a number of Palestinian factions in Cairo including Hamas to discuss a possible ceasefire and Egyptian General Intelligence Services chief Abbas Kamel reportedly visited Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman in Israel to talk to him about the matter.

Following protests from senior Fatah and PA officials, however, Egypt had reportedly paused its efforts to mediate a long-term ceasefire deal between the Israel and the terror group.

Fatah and PA officials have demanded that reconciliation efforts take precedence over a ceasefire and say that only the Palestine Liberation Organization, and not Hamas, has legitimacy to negotiate international treaties like a ceasefire.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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