PA claims Israel-Hamas ceasefire would further divide Gaza from West Bank

Palestinian Authority says proposed agreement is ‘aimed at strengthening the division’; Hamas denies it’s in contact with ‘Zionist enemy’

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh chairs a cabinet meeting in the Jordan Valley village of Fasayil, on September 16, 2019. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh chairs a cabinet meeting in the Jordan Valley village of Fasayil, on September 16, 2019. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

The Palestinian Authority said Monday that a possible Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza would deepen the rift between the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave and the Fatah-dominated PA in the West Bank.

Citing reported Israeli “promises of easing [blockade] measures for Gaza including the delivery of funds, a seaport, an airport, a hospital and an industrial zone,” PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah that the emerging ceasefire plan “is another piece of evidence of the efforts aimed at strengthening the division.”

Hamas denied reports earlier Monday that it was in contact with Israel and was seeking a long-term ceasefire. The PA and Hamas have been at loggerheads since the 2007 ouster of the Mahmoud Abbas-led PA from Gaza in a bloody coup. Repeated attempts by the warring Palestinian factions to reconcile have failed to stick.

“There are no ceasefire talks with the Zionist enemy,” the terror group insisted in a statement. “The occupation has not carried out the understandings reached in the past with the Egyptian mediators.”

The statement came after Israel’s security cabinet met Sunday for several hours to address the ceasefire talks. The meeting ended without any statement as to the status of the negotiations.

The latest round of ceasefire talks, first reported by Channel 12 over the weekend, were said to involve Israel easing its blockade to allow expanded overland trade between Gaza and Israel, expanding Gaza’s fishing zone, and speeding up the laying of a gas pipeline to help resolve chronic energy shortages in the Strip.

Palestinians attend a Hamas rally marking the 32nd anniversary of the terror group’s founding in the southern Gaza Strip, December 16, 2019. (Fadi Fahd/Flash90 )

In exchange, Hamas would reduce the rate and size of the weekly protests at the border fence, and would act to aggressively prevent rocket fire by terror groups toward Israeli territory.

For over a year, Egypt and other international parties have brokered various informal ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, including Hamas.

The understandings have largely entailed Israel lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, in exchange for Hamas maintaining relative quiet in the border region between the coastal enclave and the Jewish state.

Though the emerging truce deal has yet to be confirmed, Israel has begun easing some restrictions, including agreeing to allow tires into the Strip starting on Monday, Gaza media reported. Israel banned tires from going into Gaza shortly after the protests in the border region began on March 30, 2018, saying the embargo was in response to Palestinians setting them on fire at the protests to impair the vision of Israeli soldiers and other security personnel.

On Thursday the committee responsible for organizing weekly protests in the border region between Israel and the Gaza Strip announced that demonstrations would take place less frequently in 2020.

The High Commission for the March of Return and Breaking the Siege, which includes representatives of Gaza-based terror groups and political factions, said in a statement that protests would occur on “a monthly basis as well as whenever we need masses to gather and during prominent national occasions,” starting on March 30, 2020.

Illustrative: Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during along the border with Israel, east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, on December 6, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the protests along the frontier on most Fridays since March 30, 2018, 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 frequently included violence, including the hurling of explosives, rocks and firebombs at IDF soldiers, as well as attempts to storm and sabotage the border fence. Israeli troops have often responded with live fire, rubber-coated bullets and tear gas. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed at the demonstrations and thousands have been injured.

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.

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