Israel and Hamas have restarted talks in recent days on a deal for a long-term ceasefire which include the issue of Israeli prisoners held in the Gaza Strip, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported Friday.
According to the report, representatives from the terror group are holding discussions with middlemen representing Israel on the issue of a long-term calming of tensions in exchange for benefits including a new Turkish-funded water desalination facility and hospital in the Gaza Strip to be funded by the United States.
In addition, the Palestinians have asked for a new power cable to be laid to increase electricity supplied to the enclave.
As part of the deal for a long-term ceasefire, the sides have discussed the issue of Israeli prisoners and missing persons in the Gaza Strip, according to the report by the pro-Hezbollah outlet, cited by the Kan public broadcaster.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has vowed Israel’s destruction, is believed to be holding the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies were captured by the terror group when they were killed in the Strip during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
The terror group also holds captive two Israeli citizens — Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who are said to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord in 2014-2015.
Kan reported that the next stage of the negotiations will involve meetings between Hamas and the UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov.
The report came after organizers in the Gaza Strip canceled Friday’s planned protest along the border with Israel for the third consecutive week.
According to Kan, organizers insisted that the move “has nothing to do with the recent understanding reached with Israel,” but was taken to protect Palestinian protesters from Israeli troops at the border.
Last week Al-Akhbar reported that the committee responsible for organizing the protests was discussing whether to reduce the frequency of the demonstrations.
There is a discussion about “rolling back the marches to once a month or during national occasions,” a source in the committee told the outlet, noting a decision on the matter had not been made yet.
On November 13, in the wake of the 48-hour flare-up between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the protests were canceled for only the third time since they started in late March 2018.
The move was seen as marking an attempt by Gaza’s Hamas rulers to avoid fresh confrontation with Israel.
The High National Commission for the March of Return and Breaking the Siege, which includes representatives of Gaza-based terror groups and political factions, said the protest was canceled to allow “the Palestinian people to continue to provide assistance to family members of martyrs and wounded persons and those whose homes were damaged in the Israeli aggression.”
The fighting earlier this month started after the Israel Defense Forces killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a top commander in the Islamic Jihad terror group.
During the escalation in tensions, the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, fired some 450 rockets and mortars at Israel, which responded with retaliatory strikes in Gaza.
The Hamas terror group’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, unlike in previous rounds of fighting, was widely believed to have stayed on the sidelines.
Three Israelis were wounded by rocket fire during the fighting, and dozens were injured when they fell while running to bomb shelters.
Thirty-four Palestinians in Gaza were killed in the confrontation and 109 were injured, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. At least 19 of them were members of terror groups and several were civilians, including eight minors.
In addition, the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said Friday one of its members succumbed to injuries he sustained in an Israeli airstrike during the last round of fighting. It identified him as 30-year-old Raed al-Sarsawi.
On Tuesday, terrorists fired two rockets at southern Israel as Palestinians marked a “day of rage” in response to a recent decision by the United States supporting Israeli settlements. One of the projectiles was shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system. The second appeared to strike an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.
The IDF launched airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza in response, the army said.
A day earlier, a mortar shell from Gaza landed in southern Israel.
Meanwhile, postal banks in Gaza on Wednesday started to distribute $7 million in small grants from Qatar to impoverished Palestinian families in the territory.
Since March 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the protests along the frontier on most Fridays, demanding Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now a part of the Jewish state.
The protests have included frequent rioting with rocks, explosives and fire bombs hurled at IDF soldiers who respond with tear gas and live fire. At least 200 Palestinians have been killed, according to the health ministry.
Israeli officials maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip. They also say that the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character.