Egypt Urges Hamas to Show Restraint Ahead of Anniversary of Gaza Border Protests

The March of Return’s organizing committee declared a general strike in the Gaza Strip this Saturday and called on the masses to come to the protest tents near the fence at 1 P.M.

Hamas's Supreme Leader Ismail Haniyeh tours destroyed buildings in Gaza City, March 27, 2019.
\ HANDOUT/ REUTERS

The Egyptian security delegation, which arrived in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening, urged the Palestinian factions, and in particular Hamas, to maintain restraint towards the end of the week and to prevent an escalation during the planned demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the March of Return along the Gaza border fence.

The delegation, led by two generals, Ayman Badia and Ahmad Abdelkhaliq, have been holding intensive discussions with Israel and Hamas leaders to try and prevent the situation from further escalating. The Egyptian mediators have been pressing Hamas in recent days to reduce the friction near the fence and in Gaza’s northern coastal area. 

The organizing committee for the March of Return in Gaza agreed to freeze operations near the sea and nighttime rioting near the fence overnight Tuesday.

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A senior member of one of the factions who met with the delegation told Haaretz that the Egyptian mediators arrived after a round of talks with  Israeli officials and conveyed messages about future conduct, with an emphasis on the coming weekend.

“The Egyptians cannot demand a complete halt or cancellation of activities because they understand that the factions cannot accept such a dictate under Israeli pressure, but they are talking in terms of holding popular, nonviolent rallies that will not approach the fence in a way that will lead to an Israeli response and a counter-response from the factions,” he said.

According to the same senior official, Israel also conveyed messages hinting at an easing of the blockade if an agreement of quiet for quiet is reached. “Meanwhile, these are promises, but there are no practical things on the ground,” he said. “As long as the civilians in Gaza do not get relief, there will be no real progress toward calm and the situation could escalate at any moment.”

It should be noted that despite Egyptian mediation efforts, nighttime activity took place near the fence on Wednesday, as dozens of young people approached it in the northern and central Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Hamas political bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh made his first appearance since the last round of fighting and visited his office compound that was destroyed by an Israel Defense Forces airstrike. Haniyeh said that Israel had understood the message in the last round and called on the masses to join the processions on Saturday. The processions’ organizing committee declared a general strike in the Gaza Strip this Saturday and called on the masses to come to the protest tents near the fence at 1 P.M.