Hamas warned Friday that Israel will “pay the price” if the Palestinian Authority continues its economic and political pressure on the Gaza Strip.
“Israel is the one that will pay the price if [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s] sanctions against Gaza continue or intensify,” the group said. “Israel is the one responsible for ending the current situation that is coordinated and encouraged by [Abbas].”
Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the PA, and Hamas have been deeply divided for more than a decade. Hamas, an Islamist terror group which openly seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and several attempts at reconciliation since then have failed.
The PA government has been putting pressure on Hamas to reach a reconciliation deal, and earlier this year began to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza.
Abbas is demanding that Hamas hand over complete control of Gaza to the PA, and that the switch be conducted in a single stroke rather than in stages.
He has warned against a reported deal taking shape between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire in Gaza if it does not include the PA.
According to a report this week in the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper, Abbas insists that Egyptian efforts to mediate an accord prioritize reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and that the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he chairs, play a central role in agreeing to a ceasefire,
Last Saturday Abbas warned that there can be no two separate entities ruling Palestinian lands, stating that if the PA is not handed complete control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas will have to take full responsibility for the territory. He made the comments at a gathering of the Palestinian Central Council, the PLO’s second highest decision-making body.
And last week Abbas reportedly refused to meet with visiting Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel over his discontent at being left out of the ceasefire talks. Kamel has been involved in the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, as well as the ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel.
On Tuesday Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh claimed an end to Israel’s more than decade-long blockade of Gaza was “around the corner.”
Indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel have reportedly included discussion on easing the blockade, but by no means a complete lifting of it. Israel says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.
Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.
Around 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.
One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.
In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.
AFP contributed to this report.