Israel and Hamas said to reach agreement for 6-month ceasefire

According to report, deal brokered by Mossad head, COGAT includes $100 million from Qatar to Gaza terror group; local leaders in Israel’s south angered by lack of long-term quiet

Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah prepare balloon-borne incendiary devices to be launched toward Israel on August 8, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah prepare balloon-borne incendiary devices to be launched toward Israel on August 8, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel and the terror group Hamas have reached a truce agreement mediated by Qatar that will see quiet on the southern border for a period of six months, Channel 12 news reported on Sunday.

In return, Qatar will transfer $100 million to Hamas in a deal coordinated with Doha by Mossad head Yossi Cohen alongside the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), according to the report.

Mohammad al-Emadi, Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, has regularly visited Gaza in recent years with Israeli approval, bringing funds to the Strip for purchasing fuel, paying civil servants and helping Gaza’s poor. The most recent set of funding was set to run out within weeks, Channel 12 reported.

With the exception of two incidents of rocket fire, an unofficial agreement between Israel and Hamas has mainly held since the end of August, when Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar’s office announced that the terror group had accepted ceasefire terms negotiated by Qatar.

Israel tacitly indicated its consent by lifting the restrictions imposed on the Strip since the beginning of the August escalation in violence.

Illustrative: Rockets are launched by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip toward Israel, February 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

However, the most recent understandings were not welcomed on Sunday by local Israeli leaders in the south of the country, whose communities have been battered by rocket fire and airborne incendiary devices for years.

“I am sorry that instead of eliminating terrorism, the Israeli government supports the transfer of money to a terrorist organization for half a year. We don’t buy it, and of course we do not welcome it,” said Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi.

Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern Israeli city of Sderot, attends a press conference in Jerusalem, March 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“The Israeli government must do as it knows how to do, and has done in the past — eliminate the terrorists in Gaza and the heads of terrorist organizations. The peace agreements with the Emirates and Bahrain must be used for regional cooperation that will benefit us and Gaza,” Davidi said.

The head of the Eshkol Regional Council also expressed reservations, saying a long-term solution was needed.

“We will welcome any agreement that will lead to long-term peace. But a period of half a year of peace is not the strategic solution we hope for,” said Gadi Yarkoni.

“Qatari money is the paracetamol for the situation and not the cure. At this time, a real long-term strategic agreement must be established, with cooperation and the creation of significant economic anchors that will change the reality in the Gaza Strip in the long run. All this on the condition that the [Israeli] prisoners be returned, and the government in the Gaza Strip lay down its arms and stop terrorism,” he said.

Hamas is currently holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, both killed in the 2014 war, as well as civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two Israelis who entered Gaza of their own accord.

However, the head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council struck a more optimistic tone, saying he welcomed a period of quiet.

“We accept any agreement that will restore calm and stability to our areas and end balloon terrorism and rocket fire,” said Ofir Libsten.

A Hamas official said on September 1 that if Israel did not fulfill the terms of the ceasefire agreement with the Gaza rules by the end of two months, there could be another round of escalation of violence on the southern border.

“Our demand is for the occupation to follow all of prior agreements without procrastinating or delay,” Khalil al-Hayya said in an interview with official Hamas al-Aqsa TV. “We will give the occupation two months, and we will monitor its behavior in implementing projects and bringing in other projects. They need to implement the projects.” He didn’t specify which projects were pledged by Israel.

An explosion is seen following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City in response to the firing of rockets by Palestinian terrorists in the coastal enclave toward Israel, February 24, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at Israel last week without causing casualties or damage, the army said. The army said the projectile likely fell in an open area.

Hours later, the army said an Israel Defense Forces aircraft struck a Hamas military installation in the southern Gaza Strip in retaliation. There were no reports of casualties.

Prior to that, the last cross-border rocket attack, after which Israel retaliated with air raids, came on September 15 and coincided with the signing in Washington of normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Police and medical personnel at the scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a road in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on September 15, 2020. (Flash90)

During that barrage, 15 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, one of which struck the city of Ashdod, injuring two people, one of them seriously. Most of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the Israel Defense Forces said.

That rocket fire represented the first attacks since an unofficial ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and terror groups in the Strip late August and the largest barrage since February.

AFP contributed to this report.

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