Israel is considering agreeing to a long-term cessation of hostilities with Hamas after rejecting the offer for weeks, Channel 10 news reported Wednesday.
Diplomatic officials told the TV channel that Israel has given up on its demand that Hamas, the terror group ruling the Gaza Strip, demilitarize and that the Palestinian Authority replace it in governing the coastal enclave.
Israeli officials were said to have recognized that with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s health deteriorating, the likelihood that his Ramallah-based government will regain control of Gaza is slim.
Egyptian and Qatari officials are each proposing and mediating their suggestions for an agreement that would see Israel significantly ease its blockade of Gaza in exchange for the complete cessation of rocket fire and of the digging by terror groups of cross-border tunnels used to carry out attacks in Israeli territory. Hamas would also have to agree to not use materials allowed into Gaza under the loosened restrictions for its military apparatus.
As part of the reported deal, the Egyptians would ease constraints at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, the report said.
A senior White House official told Channel 10 that Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, presents a “challenge.”
“None of our partners has a plan that it is clear will work, but we are trying,” the official was quoted as saying, and noting that the US is pressuring Middle Eastern nations to publicly declare that Hamas is responsible for the escalation in the Gaza Strip.
Also on Wednesday Jordan’s King Abdallah II traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi about regional developments.
The flurry of diplomacy comes after dozens of Palestinians were killed last week in clashes on the Israeli-Gazan border.
More than 40,000 Palestinians took part in “unprecedentedly” violent rioting along the border, according to the army. Thousands of demonstrators burned tires, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops across the fence and, in a few cases, engaged in armed battles with the IDF, the military said.
Israel says Hamas encouraged the clashes as cover for breaching the border fence to carry out attacks in Israel. Hamas officials had publicly urged Gazans to storm the fence and enter Israeli territory, while Israel had warned it was determined to protect its border.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, at least 60 people were killed in the riots and hundreds were wounded by live fire. Hamas later acknowledged that 50 of the dead were its members.
Tensions along the Gaza border have been high since March 30, which marked the start of a series of violent protests along the security fence, known collectively as the “March of Return.”
Although the violence has since largely abated, there have been sporadic incidents — including gunfire from Gaza — which have drawn Israeli strikes on Hamas positions.
Israel’s last major military confrontation with Hamas was during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. It has maintained, along with Egypt, a blockade of Gaza that it says is needed to prevent Hamas bringing in weapons.
Agencies contributed to this report.