Israel and Qatar said to agree to sea crossing between Cyprus and Gaza Strip

As part of Egypt-mediated talks, Jerusalem is demanding the crossing be monitored by security forces and international inspectors, according to a Lebanese report

Palestinian fishing boats sail into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City, Monday, July 9, 2018, with buildings of Gaza City seen in background. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian fishing boats sail into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City, Monday, July 9, 2018, with buildings of Gaza City seen in background. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel and Qatar have reportedly agreed to establish a sea crossing between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip as part of Egyptian-mediated talks aimed at reaching a deal between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Palestinian enclave.

The Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported that Israel is demanding that the crossing be monitored physically by international inspectors as well as Israeli security forces. Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, is reportedly insisting that the crossing be under video surveillance while agreeing to international forces.

Negotiations are ongoing, according to the report.

Qatar on Friday began paying the salaries of Palestinian civil servants in Gaza in a bid to ease tensions in and around the impoverished territory. A total of $90 million is to be distributed in six monthly installments of $15 million, according to authorities, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas.

Hamas on Friday lauded what it described as a gain of the weekly protests along Gaza-Israel perimeter fence, which have often turned deadly.

“Today, we see some fruits of the protests — the partial breaking of the siege on Gaza,” Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, told reporters at a protest in east Gaza City, referring to the grant. “We are still waiting for the implementation of all other understandings.”

The cash was driven into the Palestinian enclave through Israel late Thursday by Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, according to a government source in Gaza.

Qatar has also said it would hand out $100 to each of 50,000 poor families, as well as larger sums to Palestinians wounded in clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel.

The Israeli-authorized money transfer appeared to be part of a deal that would see cash-strapped Hamas end months of often violent protests along the border in exchange for Israel easing parts of its blockade of Gaza.

Israel and Egypt largely sealed their borders with Gaza after Hamas seized control in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup, citing a need to prevent weapons smuggling.

Despite the deal, there were still protests along the border Friday, although smaller than in previous weeks. In one case, demonstrators threw stones at the convoy of al-Emadi, who toured the border area.

Reports said the Palestinians also threw several explosive devices at IDF soldiers and two men tried to breach the border. The army responded with tear gas and riot dispersal means. At least one Palestinian was killed and 37 Palestinians wounded, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said.

And in another incident Friday night, a Palestinian man managed to breach the Gaza border fence and infiltrate several hundred meters into Israel, setting a greenhouse on fire in one of the communities near the border before being caught, the army said. The man was not armed and was taken for interrogation by the Shin Bet Security service.

In another Israeli-approved deal, Qatar has started buying additional fuel for Gaza’s sole power station, allowing planned outages to be reduced to their lowest level in recent years.

Egypt and the United Nations have been brokering indirect negotiations for a long-term truce with Israel, with which Hamas has fought three wars since 2008.

Touring the protests Friday, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar denied there was a deal with Israel, but said Hamas was working with the UN, Egypt, and Qatar to end the blockade.

Deadly clashes have accompanied the major protests along the Gaza border with Israel that began on March 30, generating at times fears of a new war between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has accused Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, of leading the protests and using them as cover to carry out attacks against troops stationed the border.

Since often violent protests began on March 30, over 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests and clashes along the border, including a number of people who broke through the fence into Israel. Dozens of the fatalities were Hamas members.

One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

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