The Hamas terror group warned that Gazans could step up violent protests against Israel and Egypt should the Palestinian Authority impose fresh sanctions on the beleaguered enclave.
Members of the group, the de facto ruler of Gaza, told Egyptian officials that tens of thousands of Palestinians could rush the Strip’s borders in an attempt to overrun Israeli and Egyptian forces, the pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat reported Sunday.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is seeking to regain control of Gaza from Hamas, has threatened to cut off funds to Gaza after Israel began allowing fuel donated by Qatar to be pumped into the Strip to enable increased power for residents.
On Friday Israel halted the fuel deliveries in response to violent clashes on the Gaza border. The border violence, orchestrated by Hamas under the banner of “the March of Return,” has waxed and waned since it began in March and has gained ferocity over the past few weeks.
Citing unidentified Hamas sources, al-Hayat reported that the terror group told Cairo the situation in Gaza “will explode either in the face of Egypt or Israel if Abbas imposes new sanctions on the Strip” and “it is possible that tens of thousands of Palestinian will storm the southern borders with Egypt or eastern or northern borders with the occupation and perhaps thousands of martyrs will fall and we do not want that.”
Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, warned that if Abbas imposes new sanctions, he will be “responsible for what happens as a result of that” and that “it [Gaza] will defend itself in the face of these sanctions.”
Among those who were given the message was the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel, who is reportedly scheduled to visit Israel and the West Bank in the near future.
Egypt is coordinating reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Abbas’s Fatah party, as well as indirect ceasefire talks between Israel and the terror group.
According to al-Hayat, a high-level Egyptian security delegation led by Kamel will head to Ramallah and Tel Aviv as part of efforts related to reconciliation between Hamas and the PA, a ceasefire with Israel, and humanitarian projects in Gaza.
Palestinian sources told the daily that in Ramallah, Kamel will discuss with Abbas ways to bridge the gap between his demands and Hamas’s positions.
In Tel Aviv, Kamel will discuss ceasefire efforts, humanitarian projects in Gaza and a potential prisoner swap with Hamas.
Kamel made similar visits to Israel and the West Bank in August.
The clashes along the border, which Israel maintains are being directed by Hamas, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.
Gazans have also launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops, and killed livestock. Thousands of acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. Some balloons have carried improvised explosive devices.
Regarding ceasefire efforts, Palestinian sources revealed to al-Hayat that Hamas and the other Gaza-based factions rejected an Israeli request to halt the demonstrations and the incendiary balloons for two weeks only, similar to a reported — but never officially confirmed — arrangement made in August. Although the violence did simmer down at the time, it has since returned with greater intensity.
The sources said Hamas informed Egyptian officials of its and the factions’ position “to reject the halting of the marches except in the case that pledges are presented, leading to the breaking of the siege on Gaza entirely.”
Seven Palestinians were reported killed in intense clashes with Israeli security forces along the Gaza border Friday afternoon, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Gaza media outlets said at least 150 protesters were injured.
In the most serious incident, the army said assailants planted a bomb at the fence in the south of the Strip, blowing a hole in it. Some 20 Gazans then infiltrated the border and approached an IDF snipers’ post. Most turned back, but three who did not were shot and killed, the IDF said.
Both Israel and Egypt enforce restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip from arming or building military infrastructure.
Israel fears further deterioration in Gaza could lead to another round of war on the southern border.
Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in a 2007 near-civil war and multiple reconciliation attempts aimed at restoring the PA to power in Gaza have failed.
Abbas says that making deals with Hamas amounts to recognizing its control over Gaza in place of the PA and has sought to block fuel shipments from Qatar which Israel had only recently begun to deliver.
Speaking at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, Abbas suggested the Palestinians would cut all PA budgets allocated to Gaza if Hamas does not hand over control of the the coastal territory.
Agencies contributed to this report.