Gaza terror groups readying for joint long-term campaign against Israel – report

Sources tell pro-Hezbollah newspaper there is now coordination to step up launches of incendiary balloons across the border

This picture taken in Gaza City on August 10, 2020 shows smoke trails from test rockets fired by the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, as part of military drills. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
This picture taken in Gaza City on August 10, 2020 shows smoke trails from test rockets fired by the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, as part of military drills. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The military wings of terror organizations in the Gaza Strip are preparing for a long-term joint campaign against Israel, a Lebanese newspaper reported on Saturday.

The pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper reported that sources in the “Joint Operations Room” of the terror organizations said that the rocket barrage toward Israel in the early hours of Friday morning was an example that no action by Israel would go unanswered.

The newspaper also reported that the groups have now started to coordinate efforts to increase the amount and frequency of incendiary balloons launched toward Israel.

Palestinians in the Strip have in recent weeks sent waves of arson balloons across the border, sparking scores of wildfires in southern Israel.

An Israeli man works to extinguish a fire on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza, Aug. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The Israeli military conducted an initial bombing raid against Hamas facilities in Gaza Thursday night in response to the balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices launched across the border into Israel throughout Thursday.

This was followed by a launch of six rockets at southern Israel. They struck open fields, causing neither injury nor damage.

The military then responded with strikes on Hamas sites, including a weapons manufacturing facility.

However, amid mounting Hamas concern over rising coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip, Israel has told the terror group it will provide it with the aid necessary to handle the pandemic but only if it immediately halts all attacks emanating from the territory, according to a Friday report.

Channel 13 news said Hamas is extraordinarily worried about spreading COVID-19 cases in the Gaza population, which until recent days had been contained in quarantine centers.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry said late Friday there were 146 cases in the Strip, including 37 in quarantine centers and 109 in the general public.

Without outside support, the terror group will not be able to handle an outbreak, the report said. Recognizing this, Israel has indicated to Hamas it will provide the necessary aid, but only if all aggression is halted.

United Nations Special Envoy Nikolay Mladenov addresses an anti-annexation protest organized by Fatah in the Jordan Valley on Monday, June 22, 2020 (Screenshot/Palestine TV).

UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov on Friday warned that the situation in and around Gaza was “rapidly deteriorating” amid worsening conditions and a rise in coronavirus cases in the territory.

“I am VERY concerned that escalation is imminent,” he tweeted. “#Palestinian militants must immediately stop the launching of projectiles, incendiary devices. #Israel must restore #UN fuel deliveries for electricity. Under the current circumstances no mediation efforts to prevent escalation & improve the situation can succeed.”

Health officials in the Strip worry a growing outbreak could overwhelm the territory’s fragile health care system.

On Thursday, Hamas reportedly said that efforts to reach a ceasefire with Israel had failed, warning Israel of “messages” to be sent within hours.

A source in the group was quoted by Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated TV al-Mayadeen as saying Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi had left the territory after two days in which he brought cash to the Strip and tried to broker a ceasefire amid weeks of mutual attacks.

Smoke rises in the distance after IDF planes carried out airstrikes on Hamas targets near Gaza City on August 28, 2020. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The source said the failure to reach a deal was due to Israel’s insistence on the equation of “calm in return for calm,” rather than “calm in return for an end to the blockade” of the Strip.

Gaza terror groups won’t let Israel “use the pretext of the balloons to bomb posts in the Strip,” the source was quoted as saying.

Al-Emadi arrived in Gaza late Tuesday night, bringing $30 million in cash, seeking to ease the Israel-Hamas tensions that have led to the daily and reprisal strikes. The money is earmarked to assist the territory’s two million people, half of whom live under the poverty line, sources close to the envoy told AFP.

The uptick in violence along the border is thought to be linked to demands for increased cash transfers from Qatar to the Strip, where around 60 percent of the population is unemployed.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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