Hamas is reportedly threatening a violent escalation if Israel does not permit it to transfer funds contributed by Qatar to the Gaza Strip in the next several days and to allowing the shipment of goods – including construction materials – into the Strip. The threats were reported on Thursday by media outlets close to Hamas.
According to the reports, Hamas is threatening to again fire rockets at Israel and to resume violent nighttime protests along the border fence with Israel, in addition to floating incendiary balloons over the border into Israel. The Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have relayed this message to Israel via Egyptian intermediaries and the United Nations, the Al-Akhbar daily and other media organizations said.
Despite the reports, Hamas officials who spoke with Haaretz said they expected the Qatari funding, which would go to needy families in the Strip, to be transferred next week, in light of the fact that agreement in principle has already been reached on the matter. Hamas officials have rejected an Israeli request that the money to be transferred through the United Nations’ international food aid program. The Islamist group has insisted that the funds be transferred directly to Gaza – to then be withdrawn by the families at bank and post office branches using a special electronic card.
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Hamas, which has overall control of the Gaza Strip, opposes repeated Israeli attempts to link the issue of humanitarian relief with that of the return of two Israeli civilians as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, which have been held in Gaza since they were killed there in 2014. Hamas’ stance has been conveyed to Israel via the intermediaries in the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas and also came up in talks on Wednesday between Hamas’ political bureau chief, Ismail Haniyeh, and Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammad Al Thani.
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Nevertheless, according to Al-Akhbar, Egypt had presented Israel with a new proposal for the release of the two Israeli civilians, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as information on the bodies of the soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The Egyptian mediator is now awaiting Israel’s response, the newspaper reported.