Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for the latest round of talks aimed at brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, according to Arabic-language media outlets.
The new round of talks follows a reported demand by Hamas leaders on Saturday that Israel permit the transfer to the Gaza-based terror group of $15 million in cash from Qatar every month in order to prevent further escalation in the Palestinian enclave.
Israeli officials have roundly rejected the demand, Hadashot TV news reported.
In the document handed to Egyptian officials, the group’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar said the organization expects Israel to transfer the money by Thursday, the report said.
According to the news station, the demand for cash is intended to circumvent the Israeli coordination and supervision mechanism that was in place until now, according to which the Palestinian Authority would pay Gaza worker salaries transparently.
Tensions along the restive border once again ramped up over the weekend, with heavy rocket fire on Israeli communities in the south and retaliatory strikes from the IDF, threatening to bring the sides back to the brink of war.
Thirty-four rockets were fired at Israel overnight and Saturday morning, according to the IDF, 13 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Two of the rockets fell in Gaza and the rest landed in open areas.
Israel responded to the rocket fire by bombing some 80 Hamas and PIJ targets across Gaza.
On Sunday, Israel killed three Gazan teens in an airstrike on what the military said was a group planting explosives along the border. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the same terror group that took responsibility for the weekend rocket attacks, vowed to avenge their deaths.
Weekly large-scale riots by Gazans and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have become a mainstay along the Strip’s security fence since March 30, as part of a Hamas-led effort known as the “March of Return.”
These demonstrations take place each Friday and sometimes on other days, regularly sending massive amounts of thick smoke into the Israeli communities nearby as Palestinians burn tires along the border and send incendiary devices affixed to balloons into Israel to spark fires.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that while another large-scale military operation in the Strip might prove unavoidable, it was in Israel’s interest to try to do everything possible, including accepting mediation and assistance offered by the international community, to prevent such a scenario.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday called for more forceful action in light of the ongoing attacks from the coastal enclave.
But a senior official, speaking Monday on condition of anonymity, said that Israel will exhaust every last chance to restore calm before launching large-scale military action that may cost many lives.
Agencies contributed to this report.