Senior Hamas Official: Gaza Factions Agree to End Violent Protests Along Israel Border

Factions decide to lower level of friction as Egypt mediates Palestinian reconciliation talks ■ launch of airborne firebombs will also be halted

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Protesters near the Gaza-Israel border, September 21, 2018
Protesters near the Gaza-Israel border, September 21, 2018Credit: Adel Hana,AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian factions decided on Thursday to put an end to the violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border and stop the launching of airborne firebombs, a senior Hamas official told Haaretz. According to the official, the protesters will also stop setting tires on fire and approaching the Israeli side of the border.

At a conference held ahead of Friday's protests, the factions - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front and several others - agreed to lower the level of friction in light of the talks brokered by Egypt. The decision also follows Israel's decision to expand the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza Strip's coast and transfer funds from Qatar for Hamas salaries.

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In a joint statement on Thursday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they reached an agreement on their continued cooperation and coordnation.

The statement says the group would operate a joint war room for their military branches, and continue the "March of Return" protests until they reach their goal of "removing the blockade."

"Concurrently, we appreciate Egyptian, Qatari and UN efforts to ease the blockade and remove it," the statement concluded.

The Palestinian factions in Gaza and members of the committee organizing the March of Return protests met with an Egyptian military delegation in the Strip.

A spokesman for Islamic Jihad said the protests would continue, "but with a new tactic in the near future." He did not elaborate as to what tactic.

The statement seems to align with the talks with Egypt, aimed at lowering the flames along the border fence during protests.

A member of the March of Return committee told a Gaza media outlet that envoys from the Egyptian delegation will patrol the the protest tens near the fence and keep track of the weekly demonstrations.

The deal to transfer funds was made possible after Israel negotiated with Qatar and received guarantees that the money will be transferred only for the stated purpose, according to the reports.

A senior diplomatic source told reporters this week that Israel is interested in promoting the Qatari fund transfer to Hamas in order to prevent a humanitarian collapse "that will end up exploding in our faces."

Hamas' Finance Ministry in Gaza will reportedly use the Qatari funding to pay the salaries over the next two weeks.

According to the reports, Gaza's Finance Ministry has prepared the list of officials who will receive the payments, as requested by the Qataris. It is still unknown whether security officials in the police and the security forces will also receive their salaries from the Qatari money.

Hamas has been demanding for years that the Palestinian Authority pay the salaries of public-sector workers whom Hamas hired since it took power of the Strip in 2007. Ramallah insists that it first be given full control of all government activities in Gaza, including tax collection and payments.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has used the salary payment issue as a punitive measure against Hamas for establishing an independent administrative council for Gaza.

Also Thursday, a suspicious object was found in the courtyard of a kindergarten in a community in the Eshkol Regional Council, which borders the Gaza Strip.

The kindergarten teacher, who found the object, moved the children to a safe place and then informed the community security officer.

In a seperate incident on Thursday, an incendiary balloon was found near Be'eri in southern Israel. No injuries were reported.

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