Sources in Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority on Thursday of ordering its border crossing officials to ban entry to trucks carrying diesel fuel to the Gaza Strip in accordance with a deal drawn up with Qatar.
According to the deal, as reported by Haaretz earlier on Thursday, Qatar will finance the purchase of fuel for Gaza's power plant, allowing a significant increase in the supply of power to the Strip's residents. Israel hopes that this development, which should provide immediate improvement to residents' daily lives, will reduce the risk of a military confrontation with Hamas.
Israel's District Coordination and Liaison Office confirmed that as of Thursday it had not coordinated the passage of any fuel trucks. The agency, however, did not wish to specify reasons or whether PA considerations were involved.
Gazan sources familiar with the Qatar plan told Haaretz that the PA vehemently opposes the agreement because it bypasses Ramallah's authority. According to these officials, the PA is concerned that the Qatari money will reach Israeli companies through the United Nations monitoring apparatus, while the PA will have no control over the entry of fuel and merchandise. Under those circumstances, the PA would lose what is left of the appearance of its sovereignty in the Strip and the border crossings, and the sanctions it has imposed on Gaza will lose their power.
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The sources said that the PA’s stand on the matter only increases tensions with Hamas in light of the breakdown of reconciliation talks with the Gazan organization.
Hamas announced on Thursday that its delegation to Cairo had completed talks with Egyptian intelligence and that the atmosphere was positive. No other details were forthcoming.
Hamas sources said on Monday that the delegation was headed by the deputy head of the political bureau Saleh Al-Arouri and also included senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk. They said the talks in Cairo prevented a response and further deterioration for the time being.
In recent weeks there has been a gradual escalation in tension between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip. The group has increased the pace of demonstrations along the border fence, which are now taking place almost every night. Hamas’ “night raid units” have been planting explosive devices and throwing hand grenades near the fence and their members have been breaching the fence to sabotage construction of the anti-tunnel barrier.
Friday’s bloodshed in the Gaza Strip – seven Palestinians killed by Israeli fire, including two boys 12 and 14, and dozens wounded – was the worst in almost two months. According to the army, around 20,000 Palestinians took part in Friday’s protests, almost double the previous week’s number. Moreover, Palestinians threw more than 100 improvised bombs and grenades at the soldiers. These numbers attest to advance planning and preparation.
The Israel Defense Forces have expressed concern that incidents will lead to a military clash in the Strip.