If Israel does not fulfill the terms of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas by the end of two months, there could be another round of escalation of violence on the southern border, a senior official in the Gaza-based terror group, Khalil al-Hayya, said on Tuesday night.
“Our demand is for the occupation to follow all of prior agreements without procrastinating or delay,” al-Hayya said in an interview with official Hamas al-Aqsa TV. “We will give the occupation two months, and we will monitor its behavior in implementing projects and bringing in other projects. They need to implement the projects.”
For nearly all of August, Gaza-based militant groups were launching hundreds of explosive and incendiary balloons, as well as rockets, across the border fence with Israel, which responded by conducting nightly airstrikes against Hamas targets and closing the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing with Gaza to fuel and construction materials.
Amidst fears of another round of serious violence, Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar’s office announced Monday night that the terror group had accepted ceasefire terms with Qatari mediation. Israel tacitly indicated its consent by lifting the restrictions imposed on the Strip since the beginning of the escalation.
The Hamas deputy provided the terror group’s account of how the escalation unfolded. In al-Hayya’s account, it was Israel that sparked the weeks-long exchange of fire when Israeli authorities dragged their feet in implementing 2018 ceasefire agreements, including allowing infrastructure projects and aid to enter the Strip.
“We initially planned to fight this with all the tools at our disposal…including going through the Great March of Return protests to pressure Israel, even if such a matter led to escalation,” al-Hayya said, but added that the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic had prevented that.
According to al-Hayya, “Our young people and young revolutionaries” began to pressure Israel with explosive balloons. The mediation provided by Qatar, he said, was merely about upholding the old agreement.
“We did not create a new agreement; rather, we stabilized an old one,” al-Hayya concluded.
At least $17 million is set to enter Gaza this month, Qatari envoy Mohammad al-Emadi announced earlier on Tuesday. Al-Hayya said that once other promised projects and Qatari-funded salaries to civil servants were added, the number was equal to Hamas’s demands. All told, over $30 million in Qatari aid will enter Gaza this month, he said.
“Obviously, is this our great hope? No. We want the siege to be lifted and the end of the occupation. Our finger is steady on the trigger,” al-Hayya said. The Hamas deputy promised that in the event that Israel “delayed” in implementing its agreements with the terror group, it would attack “with balloons and without balloons.”