Gaza official: Israel agreed to implement ceasefire concessions within a week

Gaza official: Israel agreed to implement ceasefire concessions within a week

Senior politician says Israel will allow some restricted goods into Strip and undertake other measures in return for end to all ‘resistance’ except for ‘peaceful’ border protests. 

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on May 4, 2019, shows smoke billowing following an airstrike by Israel in response to rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on May 4, 2019, shows smoke billowing following an airstrike by Israel in response to rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Israel has agreed to implement a series of measures within a week, including lifting restrictions on the import of many goods into the Gaza Strip, as part of a ceasefire agreement with terror groups in the coastal enclave, a senior Palestinian official in the territory said Tuesday.

After two days of intense fighting over the weekend in which terror groups launched over 650 rockets at southern Israel and the Israel Defense Forces carried out more than 300 retaliatory strikes throughout Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that Egypt and other international parties had successfully brokered a truce deal.

A number of Arabic news sites have published varying reports detailing the terms of the deal.

The senior Gaza-based official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that the agreement “basically focuses on Israel implementing what it previously agreed to carry out, but now Israel has pledged for the first time to do so within one week.”

In return, he said Gaza’s rulers are to put an end to all “resistance” against Israel, except for “peaceful” border protests.

He added that “all options would be on the table” if the Jewish state does not abide by the deal.

The Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — the Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians — declined to comment on the official’s description of the ceasefire deal.

As a rule, Israeli officials do not acknowledge the existence of talks with the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, which it considers terror groups.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested on Monday that Israel has only temporarily halted its fire at Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“Over the past two days, we have hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force, attacking over 350 targets and terrorist leaders and activists, and destroying terrorist infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “The campaign is not over and requires patience and judgment. We are preparing to continue. The goal was and remains to ensure the peace and security of the residents of the south.”

Trucks loaded with goods and merchandise make deliveries to the Gaza Strip after the Kerem Shalom crossing was opened on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)

The Gaza-based official, who is a senior politician, said Israel agreed to “lift restrictions on importing 30% of so-called dual-use goods into Gaza and allow for increased exports from [the Strip].”

For the past several years, Israel has heavily restricted the entry into Gaza of products that it labels “dual-use,” meaning that they can be utilized for both civilian and military purposes. Palestinians in Gaza have been required to receive special permits to import goods that Israel categorizes as dual-use.

Jerusalem has long held that its restrictions on the movement of goods aim to prevent Hamas and other terror groups sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state from obtaining weapons and the materials to produce them.

The Gaza official also said Israel consented to allow the transfer of Qatari funds into the coastal enclave geared toward small grants for impoverished families, salaries of Hamas-appointed civil servants, and United Nations-supervised cash-for-work projects.

“These are all matters that Israel agreed to two months ago, but evaded implementing,” he said, adding that the Jewish state also approved the continued entry of Qatari-bought fuel into the Strip.

Over the past several months, Israel has at times permitted Qatar to distribute funds to poor families as well as Hamas-appointed government employees. It has also allowed for Qatari-purchased fuel to enter Gaza since October 2018 to power the Strip’s sole power plant.

Alluding to the cash-for-work program, the Gaza official said that it aims to help “new university graduates find employment.”

The UN agreed with Qatar in January to take $20 million from Doha to create temporary employment opportunities in Gaza.

Jamie McGoldrick, the deputy UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process, said on Monday in a call that he estimates the $20 million will establish some 10,000 temporary jobs. He noted that additional funding announced by Qatar on Tuesday for Gaza will likely provide 20,000 extra temporary positions.

He said some of the jobs would last for six months, while others would be for nine months.

Qatar announced earlier Tuesday that it would send $480 million to the West Bank and Gaza to “aid the brotherly Palestinian people in obtaining its basic needs.”

The unemployment rate in Gaza stands at 52 percent, according to the Palestinian Authority Central Bureau of Statistics.

Postal workers aid Palestinians who arrived at the central post office in Gaza City on January 26, 2019, to receive financial aid from the Qatari government given to impoverished families. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Gaza official added that Israel also agreed to expand the fishing zone off of Gaza’s coast.

“Israel consented to widening the fishing zone to six nautical miles in the north, nine near Gaza City, 12 in the center and 15 in the south,” he said. “This is the same arrangement that was implemented at the start of April.”

Israel expanded the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles in some areas off Gaza’s coast in early April, but subsequently reduced and then canceled the move in response to rocket fire.

There are 3,700 fishermen in Gaza, the vast majority of whom live below the poverty line, a 2019 report by the B’Tselem human rights group said.

The official also said that Israel committed to “halting all aggression against Palestinians in Gaza including fishermen and farmers near the border.”

Israel has called on Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from the border with Israel, warning that approaching it puts their lives at risk.

For over the past year, the IDF has opened fire on many Palestinians in the coastal enclave participating in weekly border protests, including a large number who lobbed firebombs and rocks at soldiers in addition to carrying out other acts of violence.

Palestinians wave Palestinian flags as they try to climb the security fence on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on March 22, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The official added that in return for Israel implementing all the aforementioned measures within a week, Palestinians in Gaza will halt “all resistance against Israel except for the weekly protests along the border in their peaceful form.” This formulation would appear to include a halt to the launching of incendiary balloons and kites across the border into Israel.

Asked what would happen if Israel did not implement the measures within a week and whether terror groups would start firing rockets at Israel during the Eurovision Song Contest, he said “all options would be on the table.”

“We would need to meet and decide our response, but I can assure you that we will not allow Israel to evade abiding by its commitments,” he said.

The Eurovision Song Contest is slated to take place in Tel Aviv on May 14-18.

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