A delegation of Egyptian mediators and intelligence officials reportedly met Wednesday night and early Thursday morning with the leadership of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, conveying an Israeli truce offer after days of violence and ahead of massive rallies planned for the weekend.
This week saw a spike in tensions after a rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in the agricultural community of Mishmeret in central Israel and destroyed it completely, wounding seven people. Israel responded with airstrikes on scores of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian terror groups launched many more rocket at Israeli communities in the Gaza periphery.
Throughout the recent violence, Egyptian military intelligence officials have been working to broker a ceasefire. Violence is expected to soar again over the weekend as large-scale protests are expected along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the one-year anniversary of the so-called March of Return weekly rallies, which started on March 30, 2018.
The Egyptian delegation entered the Gaza Strip via the Erez crossing on Wednesday evening, after meeting with Israeli defense officials who laid out the government’s demands for a ceasefire, according to multiple reports.
The Ynet news site reported that Israel demanded Gaza’s terror groups stop nighttime border riots, halt weekly demonstrations as well as riots at the Zikim beach in northern Gaza, and provide assurances that this weekend’s massive protest will be nonviolent.
In return, according to the report, Jerusalem offered to increase the number of trucks loaded with goods entering Gaza every day through the Kerem Shalom border crossing; ease approvals for imports and exports; support UN employment initiatives in the Strip; expand the permitted fishing zone to 12 nautical miles off the Strip’s coast; and improve electric power supply from Israel.
Two meetings were held at Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s office and lasted until 2 a.m., Ynet reported citing sources in Gaza. The Egyptian delegation is expected to return to Israel Thursday with a response from the Palestinian groups.
According to the report, the terror groups agreed to stop the nighttime demonstrations and to immediately halt the frequent launches of incendiary devices attached to balloons as a “show of good will” toward the Egyptians. However, on Thursday several such incendiary devices landed in Israel.
They also reportedly refused to halt the weekly marches at the border.
“The Egyptians cannot demand a full freeze or cancellation of all the activities, because they understand the factions cannot accept such impositions under Israeli pressure,” a senior member of one of the organizations was quoted as saying by the Haaretz newspaper.
“As long as the residents of Gaza don’t feel an improvement there won’t be real progress in the truce and the situation can explode at any moment,” the source added.
According to a report in Sky News Arabia, Israel outlined a detailed proposal that includes a one-year ceasefire. There were no further details.
Israel said on Wednesday that more than 2,000 violent incidents have emanated from Gaza since the Hamas-orchestrated weekly border demonstrations erupted a year ago.
A review found that Palestinians launched 1,233 rockets from Gaza, hurled 94 explosive devices and 600 Molotov cocktails across the security fence and committed 152 acts of arson against Israeli forces.
The report said rocket-fire killed one person and injured 126. Palestinian attacks on the security fence killed one Israeli soldier and wounded 16.
It said incendiary kites have torched thousands of acres of Israeli farmland, causing over $9.5 million in damage.
Israel has been censured internationally for using disproportionate force against unarmed protesters, but the military says troops only open fire after they come under attack and according to open-fire regulations. Over the past year, nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. Hamas has claimed dozens of them as members.
Since Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in a bloody 2007 coup, Israel has fought three campaigns against the Islamist terror group, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction.
AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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