Hamas Chief in Gaza Lowers Tensions but Says There’s Still No Draft for Israel Cease-fire Deal

Yahya Sinwar says Gazans will be protesting less at the border fence as a way to help diplomacy lift the Gaza blockade

Yehiyeh Sinwar, the Hamas militant group's leader in the Gaza Strip, speaks to foreign correspondents in his office in Gaza City. May 10, 2018.
Khalil Hamra / AP

Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said Tuesday that “at present there’s no agreement or draft agreement with Israel” on a cease-fire but added that Hamas had lowered the temperature during protests near the border fence to allow for further contacts between the sides and the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Last week Sinwar said a cease-fire agreement with Israel was possible even without a reconciliation between Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority; he said Egypt had expressed a willingness for such a scenario.

On Tuesday, he touted the Gazans’ ability to put on pressure when necessary.

“For 12 years we’ve been under siege and our children haven’t received cancer medications and treatments, and the world hasn’t intervened,” Sinwar said at a meeting with young people in the Gaza Strip.

“Now, due to the Marches of Return and the pressure we’ve created, the intermediaries sometimes come several times a day to solve the crisis. Now there’s less pressure, based on our decision, in order to give them an opportunity to bring an end to the siege.”

Sinwar criticized UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov for visiting the Strip less frequently, saying that the diplomat met with Hamas officials twice a day when there was pressure on Israel but not in the past three weeks.

He said the demonstrations near the fence were a strategic decision by Hamas and the other factions, and that the pressure created by the marches and the airborne firebombs had forced Israel to seek solutions for Gaza.

Sinwar also spoke about the contacts with Israel, mentioning possible discussions on returning the missing Israeli civilians and the Israeli soldiers’ bodies in a prisoner swap. He said the issue was unrelated to negotiations on a cease-fire agreement.

Last week Sinwar also threatened Israel.

“All of the missiles that the Palestinian resistance fired [at Israel] during the 51 days of the last war [in 2014] it can fire in five minutes,” he said.

Hamas, he warned, had sent a message to Israel through intermediaries that it is capable of “causing six months of rising and falling air-raid sirens” in the Tel Aviv area. “We don’t want a military confrontation, but we are not afraid of one.”