Hamas warns ceasefire in danger as Israel cuts fuel supply over arson attacks

UN delegation reportedly arrives in Gaza for talks with terror group’s leaders, as wildfires ignited by airborne incendiary devices scorch south

Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)
Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

A senior Hamas member warned Tuesday that recent Israeli policies on the Gaza Strip are endangering ceasefire understandings reached after last month’s two-day flareup between Israel and Palestinian terror groups.

“The Israeli occupation is manipulating the fishing zone and stopping fuel supply to the power stations,” Khalil al-Hayya told the Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency. “This puts the understandings in a dangerous situation.”

Hayya, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, warned “the Israeli occupation not to export its internal crises to our people,” apparently referring to Israel’s holding of national elections in September for the second time in under six months.

His comments came as a delegation representing UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov arrived in Gaza to meet with Hamas leaders for talks on an unofficial ceasefire deal between Israel and the terror group, as well as how to prevent further violence, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Kan quoted unnamed international sources as saying the United Nations has warned Hamas multiple times that launching incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel could endanger the agreement between the sides.

A tanker delivers fuel to the Nuseirat power plant in the Gaza Strip on October 24, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Earlier Tuesday, Israel announced that it would cut supplies of fuel to Gaza after a rash of cross-border arson attacks.

Gaza’s electricity company said the shortage resulted in a partial shutdown of Gaza’s only power plant, causing an “unpredictable” shortage in “the already disturbed” situation. At full capacity, the plant powers Gaza for 16 hours a day.

Despite the Israeli penalty, 10 brush fires broke out in southern Israel on Tuesday due to arson balloons launched from Gaza Strip, authorities said. Over a dozen wildfires raged in the south a day earlier, sparked by airborne incendiary devices from Gaza.

The halting of fuel shipments marked a shift for Israel, which over the last several weeks opted instead to put various restrictions on the size of the Strip’s fishing zone in response to arson attacks.

Israel in the past has cut off fuel supplies to Gaza’s sole electricity station in response to attacks emanating from the Strip, though such moves have drawn criticism from Palestinians and the international community for worsening an already dire humanitarian situation in the Strip.

The restrictions on the fishing zone had also been criticized for punishing fisherman who have no link to the airborne attacks. Last week, Israel extended the fishing zone to 10 nautical miles, after it had been closed entirely for several days.

IDF soldiers help firefighters battle brushfires near the Gaza border started by an incendiary device launched from the Gaza Strip, on June 24, 2019. (Yankele Grossfeld/Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council)

Tensions with Gaza have been steadily rising in recent weeks amid a spike of incendiary balloon attacks, including some that carried explosive devices that detonated in the air or on the ground inside Israeli territory.

Earlier this month saw a fresh surge in violence, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air force strikes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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