Hamas Might Escalate Fighting With Israel Due to Civilian Pressure in Gaza, Say Officials

Organization says there is great internal pressure from Gazan residents to bring about significant easing of the siege ahead of Qatar envoy's arrival

Jack Khoury
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Israeli army strikes Gaza, August 18, 2020.
Israeli army strikes Gaza, August 18, 2020. Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury

Sources in Hamas told Haaretz on Saturday that the organization recognizes great internal pressure from residents of the Gaza Strip to bring about significant easing of the siege, which could lead the political and military leadership to overturn the status quo and deteriorate into another round of fighting.

A Qatari envoy will arrive in the Gaza Strip later this week in an attempt to stem the recent escalation. However, Gazans say that the continuation or expansion of Qatari aid, under which $100 were granted to 100 thousand families in need throughout the coastal enclave, will not end the crisis.

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"Do you want the [explosive-laden] balloons to stop? So work to significantly ease the siege," a senior Hamas official told Haaretz. "I belong to the ranks of senior academics in Gaza and this weekend I couldn't bring food for my children, so you can understand what happens to the weaker population."

Last Tuesday, the only power station in the Gaza Strip stopped producing electricity after Israel halted supplies of diesel fuel to the coastal enclave, reducing Gazans’ daily power supply from 8 to 12 hours up to now to just three or 4 hours. "Who can survive in this heat with four hours [of electricity]?" said a Gazan resident and father of four children, "This means not turning on the air conditioning or the washing machine, this means turning on the refrigerator with food inside and what spoils gets thrown in the garbage."

Palestinian factions in Gaza said on Friday said they will not allow Israel to use the launching of explosive-laden balloons as an excuse to attack the Gaza Strip. A statement from the factions' joint operations room said the balloons were "non-violent popular means."

Hamas officials, referencing the joint statement, told Haaretz that like the other factions, they do not intend to initiate escalation but are rather responding to the Israeli attacks.

Hamas did not officially refer to the arrival of Egyptian defense officials on Monday to the Gaza Strip in an effort to de-escalate tensions, however, the organization recognizes what they define as a slack in the level of pressure and influence the delegation has on Israel.

"In the past [Egyptian mediation] applied pressure which was affective, now it's looks more like putting out fires," said the Hamas official, adding that "maybe we need to think about involving more mediators such as the United Arab Emirates."  

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