Egypt said to broker deal between Israel and Hamas to end Gaza violence

Egypt said to broker deal between Israel and Hamas to end Gaza violence

Sources tell Al-Hayat the agreement is not a ceasefire, but will bring an end to practice of flying incendiary balloons into Israel and attempts to breach the border

A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Egyptian delegation which visited Tel Aviv, Gaza and Ramallah in recent days has reportedly orchestrated an understanding between Israel and Hamas which would stop all violence emanating from the Strip, including incendiary balloons and the mass violent flare-ups at the border fence.

Sources told the London-based Arab news outlet Al-Hayat that Egypt has conveyed a message to senior officials in Gaza and the West Bank that all parties should refrain from escalating the situation, Channel 10 news reported.

The sources clarified that the agreement did not amount to a ceasefire and that Palestinians will be able to continue weekly demonstrations at the border with Israel, but they will not commit acts of violence such as trying to breach the border, flying incendiary balloons or throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops stationed in the area.

According to the report, Israel has pledged in return that it will expand the maritime zone for permitted fishing off the Gaza coast, will allow fuel to be supplied to the coastal enclave and extend the number of hours electricity is supplied, and will allow the United Nations to carry out infrastructure projects in Gaza.

Gaza fishermen as they start fishing off the coast of the Gaza Strip on April 3, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Sources told Al-Hayat that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have accepted the terms of the offer.

The Egyptians have reportedly pledged to the Palestinian Authority, which opposes an agreement between Israel and Hamas without internal Palestinian reconciliation, that they will work to reinstate the PA in Gaza.

Egypt has also recently made efforts to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, the movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, hosting leaders from the two rival factions for separate talks in Cairo in the past month.

Sources told Al-Hayat that the PA is not expected to oppose the agreement.

Hamas in recent days has appeared to scale back mass protests along the Gaza-Israel frontier.

Only a few hundred people joined a beach demonstration near the perimeter fence in northern Gaza on Monday — a much smaller turnout than previous weeks. The Hamas-run health ministry said 20 protesters were wounded by Israeli fire.

Palestinian protesters cover their faces from tear gas fired by Israeli troops during a protest on the beach at the border with Israel near Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Oct. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

On Tuesday, a Palestinian teen was killed and at least six others wounded by Israeli fire during a border protest east of Gaza City.

For the first time in months, there were no deaths during last Friday’s weekly protest. More than 100 Palestinians were reported wounded in violent clashes as thousands protested close to the fence, burning tires and throwing rocks at Israeli military positions along the Gaza border. However, Israeli defense officials said it was the quietest protest since the “March of Return” events began earlier this year.

The protests intensified in recent weeks, moving from weekly to daily affairs, as Hamas sought to pressure Israel into a deal. The past few days have seen a reduction in violence along the border as mediators have made efforts to restore calm.

Palestinian paramedics carry an injured protester during a demonstration near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on October 19, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hadashot TV news reported Friday that Israeli officials believe Hamas has changed its policies regarding the clashes and is working toward curbing violence at the rallies.

Jerusalem believes the terror group is moderating the demonstrations in order to allow Egyptian mediators a chance to strike a deal between Hamas and Israel for a long-term truce, the report said.

Egypt, alongside United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has played a key role in attempts to mediate a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

Gaza residents received extra hours of electricity on Thursday after several trucks of Qatari-bought fuel arrived at the coastal enclave’s sole power plant.

The Qatari-purchased fuel began flowing into Gaza’s power plant on October 9, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman halted its entry four days later following many weeks of protests, including violence against Israeli security forces, along the border between Israel and the Strip.

Israel, however, decided to lift the embargo on the entry of the fuel on Tuesday following a week of relative calm in the border region.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the coastal enclave.

Israeli soldiers walk past tanks in a gathering point near Israel Gaza border, Oct. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Fatah and the PA have vehemently opposed any possible ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. They have demanded reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas take place before any ceasefire be reached, and asserted the PLO is the sole Palestinian party that can negotiate such a deal.

Abbas has maintained a chokehold on Gaza’s finances in a bid to pressure Hamas to cede control of the territory.

PA leaders have been enraged by the move to bypass them in aiding Gaza, and have reportedly been mulling slashing all aid to the Strip — a cut of some $96 million that Israeli security officials believe could drive a desperate and cash-strapped Hamas toward conflict with Israel.

Abbas has contended that the PA should not be held financially responsible for the Gaza Strip where Hamas is in charge. He has, in the past, shown interest in reconciling with the terror group and returning PA rule to the coastal enclave. However, the Palestinian Authority president has refused to do so unless Hamas disarms — a condition that the Islamist group has shown no interest in accepting.

But a number of Arab governments have objected to Abbas’s desire to choke off Hamas in Gaza, concluding that such a measure would lead to a spike in violence.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

This picture taken on October 19, 2018 in Nahal Oz, from the Israeli side of the border to the northeast of the Gaza Strip, shows balloons carrying an incendiary device launched by Palestinians. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

There have also been several flareups that took Israel and Hamas to the brink of war, with Palestinians firing rockets into Israel and the IDF responding with airstrikes.

Some 156 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

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