Attempts to Demilitarize Gaza Will Trigger War in the Summer, Islamic Jihad Leader Says

Ziad al-Nakhalah says his group was hours from launching rockets at Tel Aviv before the cease-fire that ended the last round of hostilities came into effect

Islamic Jihad militants attend the funeral of Palestinian Jehad Hararah who was killed at the Israeli-Gaza border fence, March 23, 2019.
\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah has said that he believes attempts to demilitarize the Gaza Strip and disarm Palestinian factions will trigger a war in the coming summer. 

In an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese television channel Al Mayadeen, Nakhalah claimed that hours before the last round of fighting ended on Monday, his group was set to launch rockets toward Tel Aviv. The cease-fire prevented the launch. 

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 26Haaretz

Nakhalah added that despite Israel's attempts to sabotage relations between his group and Hamas, the two organizations agree on a policy they will opt for in the next round of violence. 

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The Islamic Jihad leader added that the weekly protests along the border between Israel and the Strip will not stop, and called on Israel to implement understandings it committed to in talks with Egypt. 

According to him, it is Israel's approach to the border protests that will determine how the Palestinian factions respond. 

Much like in previous bouts of hostilities in Gaza over the past several years, the outline of the cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians paralleled previous understandings that were reached at the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. 

This makes it easier for both parties to claim repeatedly that they have returned to the status quo that prevailed prior to the escalation, instead of admitting that they signed new agreements and are engaging in negotiations. 

Ziad al-Nakhalah
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The outline to the agreement usually includes six main clauses that the parties commit to implement gradually, as long as the calm is not disrupted. They are a general cease-fire, the transfer of funds from Qatar and the United Nations, the opening of Gaza crossings and extension of Gaza's permitted fishing zone, provision of medical and humanitarian aid, a prisoner swap deal (that also includes people considered missing), extensive rehabilitation in the Strip and the launch of talks regarding the establishment of a Palestinian airport and naval port. 

Exchanges of fire usually resume by the time the first clauses are implemented. 

According to Palestinian sources, the amount of money that will be Qatar will transfer this time is bigger than sums previously pledged by the Gulf state. In addition, Palestinians claim that this time, new clauses were added to the agreement – an Israeli vow to refrain from killing Islamic Jihad and Hamas officials. Israel has also likely asked that the Palestinians not fire rockets at the country during its Memorial Day and Independence Day, as well as throughout the Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held in Tel Aviv next week.