US reportedly pushing Gaza demilitarization at UN
Proposal calls for destruction of tunnels between Strip and Israel; will be presented to Security Council after Cairo next month
Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
The US government is reportedly working toward presenting to the UN Security Council a comprehensive proposal for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, according to Lebanese media.
Diplomatic sources in the UN told reporters from the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar that the proposal calls for the disarmament of all militant and terror groups in the Hamas-controlled enclave, leaving the Palestinian Authority the only armed force. Under the terms of the proposal, all tunnels between the Gaza Strip and both Israel and Egypt will be destroyed as well, Israel Radio reported.
The proposal is set to be presented to the Security Council following negotiations over key issues between Israeli and Palestinian representatives, which are scheduled for next month in Cairo, according to Israel Radio. The issues include Hamas’s demands for a wider lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip — imposed by Israel and Egypt to prevent Hamas importing weaponry — as well as for a port and an airport, and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel’s calls to demilitarize Gaza.
On Thursday, French President Francois Hollande also called for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, asserting that such a move was the only way to assure safety both to Israel’s citizens and to Palestinian civilians residing in the coastal enclave.
“All parties have made commitments [to the ceasefire agreement], which must be strictly, precisely, rigorously implemented, because Gaza can no longer be an army base for Hamas, or an open-air prison for its inhabitants,” Hollande said.
“One should move towards a progressive lifting of the blockade and the demilitarization of the territory,” he continued.
The French president added that his country was as committed to the implementation of demilitarization in the Gaza Strip as it was to the reconstruction of the area.
“France made proposals to insure an international supervision of the tunnel network’s dismantling,” he said. “To secure the reopening of crossing points between Gaza on the one hand, Israel and Egypt on the other, and to enable the Palestinian Authority to address humanitarian needs and to undertake once again, and I insist on once again, Gaza reconstruction.”
Hamas leaders have expressed dismay at the prospect of disarming, vowing to never forfeit their weapons until all their objectives, including the uplifting of the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip, are met. Exiled Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal threatened on Thursday to resume fighting Israel, adding that Gaza will never give up its “sacred” weapons.
“The rockets and tunnels exist; if the negotiations fail and there is a need, we will return to resistance until we reach our goals,” he said at a press conference in Qatar.
Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups reached an open-ended ceasefire deal with Israel on the 50th day of Operation Protective Edge.
Under the deal — in a move which went into effect early on Wednesday — Israel agreed to lift restrictions on fishing, allowing boats to work up to six nautical miles from the shore.
It also pledged to ease restrictions at two of the crossings into Gaza — Erez and Kerem Shalom — to allow the supervised entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials, in a move which began Thursday.
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conceded that he could not yet guarantee Israel’s military operation would ensure long-term quiet, but said that if Hamas resumes its fire, the IDF will strike back “sevenfold.” He said none of Hamas’s demands had been met.
AFP and Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.