Hamas: If Gaza Blockade Isn’t Lifted, We Can’t Stop the Airborne Firebombs

‘The protests and the kites started on March 30 because of the blockade and the difficult humanitarian situation in the Strip,' a Hamas official tells Haaretz

A fire in Israel near Gaza caused by an airborne firebomb, July 20, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Hamas leadership cannot act openly against the incendiary kites and balloons as long as it cannot ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Hamas officials told Haaretz on Saturday.

Hamas leaders, including the deputy head of the group in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, have said in recent days that the protest will continue using “all means” until the blockade is lifted.

A senior official in Israel said Saturday that after Friday’s clashes, Hamas pledged to stop the incendiary kites and balloons and its actions at the fence. “The Egyptians are guarantors for us,” the official said. “In any case, actions on the ground will determine what happens, and if Hamas violates the truce, it will pay an even heavier price.”

After sniper fire killed an Israeli soldier Friday, the air force attacked Hamas targets in the Strip, and the authorities in Gaza reported four killed, three of whom were Hamas members.

Several organizations held meetings this week in Gaza, including officials from various factions of Hamas and the committee handling the border-fence protests. Some wanted to halt the release of airborne firebombs “so as not to give Israel a pretext to start a new war.” Hamas officials said they could not call publicly for such a cessation.

“The protests and the kites started on March 30 because of the blockade and the difficult humanitarian situation in the Strip,” a Hamas activist told Haaretz. “Meanwhile, Israel is tightening the blockade, and in exchange for quiet and stopping the protest, it’s offering to return to the situation we were in before. In fact, we’re at square one.”

According to the official, Hamas is sending indirect messages to its grass-roots operatives, including the ones sending up the kites and balloons.

Hamas hopes to achieve significant humanitarian improvements in Gaza in two ways: the initiative by the UN special envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, and Egyptian efforts to mediate a Hamas reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority.

“For two months now we’ve been hearing about talks and plans for improvements, but the results have been zero,” a member of the border-fence protest committee said. “In Israel they’re only thinking about the fires and themselves, not about the 2 million people in the Strip. If they see us as freedom-seeking people, it will be easier to move ahead. Otherwise we’ll be in more rounds of escalation and violence.”