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Hamas escalation during Biden visit will bear a heavy price, Israel said to warn

Officials in terror group say Israel threatened to go back on economic incentives offered to Gaza, insist its actions ‘are in accordance with Palestinian interests’

Illustrative: Then-US vice president Joe Biden waving as he boards his plane at Ben Gurion Airport after a two-day visit in Israel on March 10, 2016. (Matty Stern/US Embassy of Tel Aviv)
Illustrative: Then-US vice president Joe Biden waving as he boards his plane at Ben Gurion Airport after a two-day visit in Israel on March 10, 2016. (Matty Stern/US Embassy of Tel Aviv)

Hamas officials said Tuesday that Israel warned the Gaza-based terror group that any escalation of violence during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel this week will come with a heavy price, according to a report by the Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper Al Akhbar.

According to the report, Israel conveyed the message through Egyptian and Qatari mediators and threatened that such provocation would lead to a severe response.

Specifically, Hamas claimed that Israel threatened to go back on recent economic incentives offered to residents of the Gaza Strip.

“Actions taken on behalf of the Palestinian people’s resistance are in accordance with Palestinian interests and have nothing to do with the visit of any individual to the region,” Hamas said in a statement, according to the Ynet news outlet.

Last month, Israel said it would move to increase the number of work permits for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to 14,000. The Defense Ministry signed off on a tentative plan to eventually raise the number of Gaza permits to 20,000, a dramatic and unprecedented increase. In mid-2021, just 7,000 Palestinians from Gaza had permits to work or trade in Israel.

Defense officials say allowing more Gazans to work in Israel will pump much-needed income into the impoverished coastal enclave while encouraging stability.

Illustrative: Palestinians apply for permits to work inside Israel at the chambers of commerce in Gaza, October 7, 2021 (AP Photo/Adel Hana, File)

Israel said late last year it was planning to ease a series of restrictions on the Gaza Strip, aiming to alleviate some of the territory’s economic woes and prompt the population to pressure the Hamas terror group to keep the calm.

Among the moves weighed was increasing the number of work permits for Gazans in Israel and allowing some dual-use materials to enter Gaza, in coordination with the UN, which will ensure they are used for civilian purposes rather than terror.

Biden is expected in Israel on Wednesday for a packed two-day visit that will also include a trip to the Palestinian Authority, followed by a stop in Saudi Arabia on Friday ahead of a meeting Saturday with Mideast leaders.

Ahead of his arrival, a Sunday report indicated that Israel is planning to advance a stalled plan to approve the construction of some 1,000 new Palestinian homes and make progress on long-stalled plans to set up Palestinian 4G cellular networks.

For a year and a half, the Biden administration has said that Palestinians are entitled to the same measure of “freedom, security and prosperity” enjoyed by Israelis. But the Palestinians say they’ve mostly gotten US aid and permits to work inside Israel and its Jewish settlements.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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