Hamas official threatens border raid if Israel doesn’t keep to ceasefire deal

Fathi Hammad says ‘our patience has run out,’ slams the apparently warming ties between Israel and Arab states

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Fathi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, delivering a speech in the border region between Israel and the Gaza Strip on February 19, 2019. (Screenshot: Al-Aqsa TV)
Fathi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, delivering a speech in the border region between Israel and the Gaza Strip on February 19, 2019. (Screenshot: Al-Aqsa TV)

A senior Hamas official said on Tuesday that if Israel does not keep to the terms of a de facto ceasefire agreement it reached with the terror group, Palestinians will rush the Gaza Strip’s border with the Jewish state.

Fathi Hammad, a member of Hamas’s politburo who is known for his heated rhetoric, made the statement at a protest in the northern border region between Israel and Gaza.

“If the enemy does not return to its senses and does not implement the understandings, we will storm the border,” he said in a short speech, without elaborating on what he specifically wanted Israel to do. “Our patience has run out. Our patience has run out.”

Since late March 2018, the Hamas terror group, Palestinian political parties, civil society groups and others have orchestrated weekly protests in the Gaza border region, which, they say, aim to force the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave. Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, which is sworn to destroy the Jewish state, from importing weaponry.

The protests have seen many violent acts, including the lobbing of firebombs, rocks and other objects at IDF soldiers and the sabotaging of the border fence.

Israel and Hamas, however, reached a series of understandings last summer through intermediaries to provide Gaza with economic incentives in exchange for relative calm along the border. Egypt, United Nations special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov and Qatar have been identified as the primary arbiters of this de facto ceasefire agreement.

Over the past several months, the details of the understandings have begun to materialize on the ground. Israel has allowed for trucks of Qatari-bought fuel to pass into Gaza, as well as funds from Doha for Hamas-appointed civil servants and needy families. 

Palestinians climb the security fence along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, during clashes east of Gaza City, on February 15, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

However, in late January Hamas rejected the funds for the civil servants and later agreed with Qatar to use them for UN-backed temporary employment projects. 

Meanwhile, Hamas has taken action to significantly tone down the border protests in the past months, but recent weeks have seen a resurgence of clashes with IDF troops.

Hamas officials have recently accused Israel of attempting to evade implementing the de facto ceasefire deal in an effort to avoid lifting restrictions on Gaza.

Hammad also slammed the apparent warming of relations between some Arab states and Israel. 

“Here, on this today, we also send a message to all the Arab regimes that have publicly and secretly normalized [with Israel]. We say to them that you will not succeed and you will not be victorious. You will be buried in the trash bins of history with the enemies of God and the Jews,” Hammad said.

Last week, a number of senior Arab officials and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a US-Polish hosted conference on the Middle East in Warsaw.

In addition, many high-ranking Israeli officials have also visited Arab countries in the past several months, including Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. 

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this article.

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