Sunday, August 19, 2018

Despite long-term truce overtures, Hamas urges ‎mass border protest - Ariel Kahana, Mati Tuchfeld, Nikki Guttman and Eli Leon

by Ariel Kahana, Mati Tuchfeld, Nikki Guttman and Eli Leon

"If the calm on the border ‎is violated, Israel will mount a forceful response," official warns

Hamas leaders on Thursday urged Palestinians in the ‎Gaza Strip to arrive at the border with Israel on ‎Friday and protest en masse, as they have been doing ‎since the onset of the group's border riot campaign ‎four months ago. ‎

The call came despite the fact Gaza's rulers are ‎engaged in indirect cease-fire negotiations with Israel, ‎meant to prevent the hostilities of recent weeks ‎from escalating further. ‎

Israeli officials said Hamas' actions on the ground ‎would determine whether negotiations ‎could continue, saying, "If the calm on the border ‎is violated, Israel will mount a forceful, ‎unrestricted response.

Arab media reported Thursday that the cease-fire ‎‎agreement Egypt is trying to ‎negotiate between ‎‎Israel and Hamas includes a one-‎year truce as well ‎‎as several measures meant to ‎alleviate the dire ‎‎economic situation in Gaza, such as establishing a ‎‎"naval ‎‎corridor" between Cyprus and Gaza through ‎which ‎‎goods could be delivered to the enclave, as well as ‎‎the ‎construction of a port in the ‎Sinai Peninsula, ‎which ‎would operate under Israeli ‎security ‎supervision.‎

An Egyptian source said that if the truce proves ‎viable, negotiations will be held to extend it to ‎four years. ‎

He further said a broader agreement would include a ‎prisoner exchange deal, under which Hamas will ‎return the bodies of two IDF soldiers as well as two ‎living Israeli civilians, and Israel will release ‎hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners. ‎

Hamas denied that a prisoner exchange deal was in ‎the works, saying it opposes linking a truce deal ‎to a potential prisoner exchange. ‎

Israeli officials denied that the current talks ‎extended beyond a bilateral cease-fire, and said any ‎Arab reports suggesting Israel has agreed to a naval ‎corridor are false.‎

An official privy to the current talks told Israel ‎‎Hayom, "The truce would have to hold for a ‎considerable period of time for Israel to discuss ‎any humanitarian projects in which it may be involved. ‎This would also depend on prisoner exchange ‎negotiations."‎

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman and Habayit ‎Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett Gil Eliyahu / JINI
‎Also on Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ‎and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett again ‎locked horns over the defense establishment's ‎policies in Gaza. ‎
Bennett, who over the past week has accused ‎Lieberman of being "too lenient" on terrorism, said ‎that the defense minister's policy of trying to ‎communicate directly with the Palestinians in Gaza ‎in an effort to undermine Hamas' regime was ‎‎"hollow and senseless."‎

‎"The idea that Israel can persuade the public in ‎Gaza to topple Hamas' government is detached from ‎reality," Bennett said.‎ "Has Lieberman ask himself how many years it would ‎take to topple Hamas by the power of persuasion? Who ‎does he think will pay the price for the increase in ‎terrorism in the meantime? ‎
"Lieberman's message has been well received: ‎Terrorism pays. Hamas fires rockets at us and Israel ‎caves. The Israel-Hamas deal Lieberman is pushing is ‎a serious and irresponsible mistake that will allow ‎Hamas to accelerate rocket production," ‎Bennett blasted. ‎

A statement by Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu party ‎retorted, "As Bennett has often been absent from ‎cabinet meetings about Gaza, he is unfamiliar with the ‎details involved."‎

The party went on to characterize the bickering ‎between the two as "an argument between Lieberman's ‎responsible right-wing positions and the messianic ‎and populist Right represented by Bennett, which ‎supports a binational state and the occupation of ‎Gaza."

Another minister also criticized the deal taking ‎shape saying that "Israel has effectively ‎capitulated to them [Hamas]. Israel is giving them ‎supplies, power, money and assurances for a naval ‎corridor, but we are getting nothing in return. Our ‎captives have not been released and all we are ‎getting is a truce that Hamas can decide to violate ‎at will." ‎

Senior Jerusalem officials insisted Thursday that no ‎long-term agreement would be reached with Hamas ‎unless the Israeli captives were returned.

Ariel Kahana, Mati Tuchfeld, Nikki Guttman and Eli Leon


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