Emerging Gaza ceasefire to significantly ease blockade — report

Lebanese daily says Egypt prepared to slash 70% of its own border restrictions under 3-year truce deal; Israel will be required to grant work permits and expand fishing zone

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)

An emerging cease-fire agreement aimed at calming months of violence on the Israel-Gaza border will last for three years and see a significant easing of the blockade on the Hamas-controlled territory, Lebanon’s Al-Akbar newspaper reported Saturday.

According to the report, the deal being brokered by Egypt stipulates a gradual stop to the ongoing, Hamas-orchestrated violent border protests and maritime flotillas over the next two months. In addition, Hamas will be obligated to punish Gazans caught engaging in violent demonstrating along the border with Israel.

In return, Egypt will permanently open its Rafah border crossing and lift 70 percent of its blockade on the Hamas-controlled territory, the report said, citing officials familiar with the emerging agreement.

Al-Akbar said the deal would require Israel to grant 5,000 work permits for Gazans, and expand the Strip’s fishing zone from nine to 14 nautical miles.

Israel had no immediate comment on the report.

In addition, the paper reported the Palestinian Authority would pay 80% of the salaries of Hamas officials in Gaza, and would not object to Qatar bankrolling those wages for at least six months, like it has in the past.

Israeli soldiers taking position during clashes with Palestinian protesters across the Gaza border on October 19, 2018, in Nahal Oz (Jack Guez/AFP)

Within the framework of the agreement, the report said various economic projects in Gaza would be advanced to create jobs for some 30,000 jobs and alleviate the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

The truce is slated to last three years and will be under the supervision of the United Nations and Russia. At later stage after the deal is implemented, Al-Akbar said Egypt would work to advance a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.

The report was released after Friday’s weekly protests along the Gaza border saw a significant decrease in violence.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in the strip, 12 Palestinians were injured from live Israeli fire, and dozens injured from tear gas inhalation. The Associated Press said the figures were the lowest reported since the start of the demonstrations seven months ago.

A senior Hamas member said the clashes were scaled down to give diplomatic efforts a chance amid talk of a breakthrough in months of Egyptian-led negotiations.

The official Twitter account of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction even posted a picture of what it claimed to be a member of the Hamas-run security forces forcibly preventing protesters from approaching the Gaza border fence during Friday’s protests.

Khalil al-Hayya said the terror group was “testing” Egyptian-led efforts to broker a ceasefire to ease an 11-year-old blockade on Gaza, but warned the clashes would resume if the blockade was not lifted.

The IDF put turnout Friday at some 7,000 demonstrators with about half of those present approached the border fence, while the rest remained at a distance and did not clash with soldiers. The protest ended earlier than usual.

Palestinians react to tear gas fired by Israeli forces during clashes east of Gaza City near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on November 2, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

For months, Egypt and UN officials have been engaged in indirect talks between Hamas, the Islamist terror group that runs the Gaza Strip, and Israel.

Israel has accused Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, of leading the protests and using them as cover to carry out attacks against troops stationed the border.

Last week, seven Palestinians were reported killed in the weekly border protests. The bloodshed was followed by rockets launched at Israel by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, which were met with and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, dashing hopes of what was expected to be a calmer week in Gaza.

Since the often violent protests began on March 30, over 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations and clashes along the border, including a number of people who broke through the fence into Israel. Dozens of the fatalities were Hamas members. During that time, one Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinian sniper.

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