Hamas warns of consequences should Israel walk back economic steps — report

Egyptian delegation leaves Gaza after days of deliberations on long-term ceasefire, amid concerns by terror group that Jerusalem will seek to toughen its stance

Masked gunmen from the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terror group, march with their weapons during a large-scale drill across the Gaza Strip, March 25, 2018. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
Masked gunmen from the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terror group, march with their weapons during a large-scale drill across the Gaza Strip, March 25, 2018. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

A delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials left the Gaza Strip Saturday, having participated in meetings with Hamas officials since Thursday to discuss stabilizing the security situation and efforts to establish a long-term calm with Israel.

Meanwhile Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that Hamas is concerned that Israel will take a tougher stance on Gaza following the past week’s violent conflict, and may walk back moves it has made to ease the economic plight in the enclave.

A source in the terror group told the paper that such action “would be a declaration of war and our response will be strong and more intense than previously.”

Hamas officials voiced their concern to Egyptian officials but were assured there was no change Israel’s position regarding understandings previously reached, the report said. The Egyptians, meanwhile, demanded that Hamas continue to restrain border demonstrations and keep them away from the security fence.

As part of efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire, earlier this month Israel allowed Qatar to send funds into Gaza meant to pay salaries of Palestinian civil servants in the Strip.

Hamas members in a parade in Jabalya in Gaza ‘in support of the resistance,’ following a ceasefire with Israel after two days of violence, November 13, 2018. (Twitter screen capture)

The $15 million in cash brought into the territory was to be the first of six similar installments. Israel has also been allowing Qatari-bought fuel to enter the Strip for the operation of its sole power plant.

Also Saturday the Israeli army said it fired towards a Palestinian who approached the border fence behaving in a suspicious manner, after he failed to respond to warnings to move back. The man was hit and fled back into the Strip.

On Friday at least one Palestinian was killed and more than a dozen injured during clashes on the Gaza border, Palestinian media reports said. The protests came despite IDF warnings that there would be “zero tolerance” for violence.

Some 8,000 Palestinians gathered at the border. Most stayed away from the border fence, although some burned tires and threw rocks at soldiers who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli forces during a protest on November 16, 2018, on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Palestinian organizers of the weekly clashes had on Thursday urged Gazans to demonstrate Friday “to thank the resistance” for battling Israel.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding the weekly “March of Return” protests on the border, which Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using to carry out attacks on troops and attempt to breach the security fence.

On Thursday, in the wake of a massive flareup in violence that brought the region to the brink of another war, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians threatened Gazans that Israel’s “patience has run out and we will respond severely” to those who take part in clashes along the border.

The flareup in violence between Hamas and Israel this week was the largest since the 2014 Gaza war.

Over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Israel Defense Forces — more than twice the rate at which they were launched during the 2014 conflict.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage.

In response, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

The fighting ended on Tuesday after a Hamas-announced ceasefire took effect, though this was not officially confirmed by Israel.

The decision to halt attacks on Gaza was criticized by many in Israel and was cited by Avidgor Liberman in his decision Wednesday to resign as defense minister, a move expected to bring early elections for the Knesset.

In this November 16, 2018 image, Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar holds up a handgun with a silencer he says was captured from Israeli special forces during a firefight in the Gaza Strip on November 11. (YouTube screenshot)

Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar on Friday warned Israel “not to test us again,” saying the next rocket barrage from the territory would target Tel Aviv and other central cities with a potency that would “surprise” Israel.

He also warned that the next time Israeli soldiers entered the Strip, they would only return through a prisoner exchange for “thousands of prisoners.”

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh cheered Liberman’s resignation Wednesday, saying it marked an “admission of defeat” by Israel. Haniyeh also boasted that Hamas “achieved a military victory against this odious occupier in less than a week.

“A military victory occurred with the heroic performance of the Palestinian resistance factions who responded to the occupier’s crime and aggression with a response commensurate with its aggression,” he said.

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