Palestinian Leaders Give Israel a Week to Fulfill Gaza Cease-fire Commitments

Fighting will resume within the next few weeks if Israel doesn't take steps to lift the blockade on Gaza, Palestinian leaders warn

Damage from an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip.
Khalil Hamra/AP

The leaders of Palestinian factions said Monday that they would give Israel a week to carry out its cease-fire commitments following a violent weekend that ended late Sunday with an agreement.

According to the Palestinians, the understandings include Israel taking steps to ease the blockade on Gaza. If Israel fails to do its part within a week, fighting would resume within the next few weeks, they said.

Since Monday morning, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have been trying to project a sense that they had won the latest round of fighting, in which four Israelis in the south of the country and 25 Palestinians in Gaza were killed.

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The spokesman of Hamas' military wing, Abu Obadiah, said a new tactic managed to outdo Israel's  Iron Dome missile defense system by " firing dozens of rockets at once in each barrage." "The pace and force of the rockets launched caused heavy damage and embarrassed the enemy," he said.

In the most recent prior round of hostilities earlier in the year, Israel also promised a significant easing of the situation for residents of Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, but Palestinian factions are reserving judgment.

A Palestinian man walks by rubble following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City.
Khalil Hamra/AP

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“We know that people are skeptical, because relief was promised the last time around too, and it didn’t happen,” a Hamas member told Haaretz. “We hope things will be different this time.”

Talal Abu Zarifa of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who is also a member of the committee that has been organizing the weekly protests in Gaza along the Israeli border, told Haaretz that the cease-fire obligates both sides to keep the peace, he said depends on implementing the understandings. The agreement, he said, addresses access to the Gaza fisherman to the Mediterranean, an Israeli commitment not to harm the fishermen and implementation of agreements about the passage of funds from Qatar into the Strip.

It also relates to the opening of the border crossing points between Israel and Gaza, easing passage of merchandise into Gaza and refraining from using live weapons fire against the demonstrators in the Friday border protests, Abu Zarifa said. In return, the factions promised to halt the launching of incendiary balloons into Israel as well as night-time activity along the border fence, he added.

On Monday morning, Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, said Israel had wanted the Friday demonstrations to be stopped entirely, but the representatives of the factions reject that. According to assessments in Gaza, limitations on the scope and distance of the presence of Gazans near the border fence will depend on the degree of relief that Gaza receives from Israel.

There has been a great deal of talk in the factions about implementation of the agreement that followed the prior round of fighting earlier in the year. That agreement included an easing of passage at border crossings and financial aid from Qatar and the United Nations.

But Palestinian sources with a knowledge of the agreement told Haaretz that the language of the latest agreement obliges both sides to stop firing at one another, but some of the details are still being discussed in Cairo. A high-ranking delegation of people from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad remain in the Egyptian capital to discuss implementation of the agreement with the Egyptian mediators.

In a warning in comments to the Hamas-run Arsala website, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, Musab al-Briem, said: “If Israel behaves stupidly, the factions will be prepared to respond.”

Despite the unilateral announcement of a cease-fire, Israel has yet to announce any changes in the restrictions that it imposed over the weekend relating to border crossings, Gaza’s fishing zone and the shipment of fuel into the Strip.