Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect contacts about ideas for cementing a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip, sources in the Islamist terror group said Tuesday.
The contacts have gone through a number of Arab and European channels in a bid to firm up an informal ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending a 50-day war in Gaza.
“There has been indirect contact between Israel and Hamas, messages passed via Arab channels as well as through European and Turkish sources,” one of the sources told AFP, describing it as “an indirect exchange of ideas.”
The contacts were confirmed by an Israeli source.
The Egyptian-brokered truce came into effect on August 26, with the sides pledging to resume indirect contacts within a month to pin down a lasting ceasefire and discuss crunch issues.
But the follow-up talks were delayed several times and never formally resumed.
“We are ready for an agreement. Hamas wants to solve the problems in Gaza,” the source in the Islamist movement said.
But he insisted the contacts were purely informal and that there was no formal initiative or proposal on the table.
“Hamas has received some European envoys in Gaza and Doha with messages from Israel.
“We received several envoys but it’s not officially talks. It’s indirect ideas and communication,” he said, noting the involvement of a UN official as well as members of the European parliament.
Asked about the indirect contact with Hamas, an Israeli source confirmed there had been some discussions.
“There are contacts with Egypt and other elements over an easing of the blockade and the entry of materials to Gaza in exchange for quiet,” he told AFP.
“But Hamas is finding it difficult to control Islamic Jihad and other elements in order to do this,” he said, referring to a flurry of sporadic rocket fire from Gaza, most of which have been claimed by a small Islamic extremist group bent on challenging the ruling Hamas movement.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire.
The Hamas source said senior members of the movement had met in Doha over the weekend for talks with the Qataris, while denying remarks attributed to a senior Hamas official which suggested there was a written proposal under discussion.
He said the discussions were about an agreement of five to 10 years, and focused on key issues for Hamas such as ending Israel’s and Egypt’s blockade, which is now entering its ninth year, and the establishment of a sea passage between Gaza and the outside world.
He did not say whether other Palestinian factions were involved in the talks, such as the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas which was heavily involved in the Egyptian-brokered talks that ended the conflict.
In March, The Times of Israel reported that Qatar’s representative to the Gaza strip, Muhammad al-Ahmadi, met with top Israeli and Hamas officials to arbitrate a deal, according to Palestinian sources in Gaza and Ramallah.
The Qatari proposal pushed by Ahmadi involves a long-term ceasefire, ending the blockade of Gaza, inviting Abbas and his government back into the Strip and giving him control of the border crossings, rehabilitating Gaza, and constructing a seaport and an airport.
The truce proposal reportedly includes a clause regarding the establishment of a seaport in Gaza, NRG reported on Tuesday. The port, according to the proposal, will be subject to Israeli or international supervision.
Some Hamas officials told The Times of Israel in March that they would not oppose such a resolution.
The 50-day war last summer claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians, many of them civilians, according to Palestinian sources in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip; and 73 Israelis, including 66 soldiers. Israel maintains almost half of the Palestinians killed were combatants and blames Hamas for civilian deaths since military infrastructure was placed in residential areas.