Methods to Remove Israeli Blockade Were Center of Gaza Talks, Hamas Chief Says

Hamas delegation in Egypt to continue talks on inner-Palestinian reconciliation and the emerging deal with Israel ■ Haniyeh: 'We can handle' the 'dangerous plot against the Palestinian people if we unite'

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh attending the funeral of Hamas militants who were killed by Israeli tank fire, July 26, 2018.
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh attending the funeral of Hamas militants who were killed by Israeli tank fire, July 26, 2018.Credit: \ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday afternoon that talks senior Hamas officials held in Gaza throughout the day with representatives from Egypt, Qatar and the UN revolved around "different means to remove the blockade" from the Gaza Strip and noted that "a series of decisions has been made."

Haniyeh did not elaborate further about the decisions, but added that the parties discussed details concerning reconciliation agreements following the plan suggested by Egypt as well as offers extended by Qatar and the UN's Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov.

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The repercussions of Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the White House's soon-to-be unveiled peace plan are two issues that were also raised in the Gaza meetings, Haniyeh added.

"We're at a very sensitive stage and there's a very dangerous plot against the Palestinian people that one side can't handle alone; we can handle this if we unite," Haniyeh said.

Haniyeh explained that now that the talks are over a Hamas delegation is slated to set out to Cairo for the continuation of talks. In Cairo, the delegation will present to Egypt its perspective regarding issues such as Palestinian reconciliation, the security situation and the ending of the blockade on Gaza.

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A Hamas source told Turkish news agency Andalou on Tuesday night that sometime this month, the group will reach a deal with Israel that will span five years.

The agreement will include the return of Israeli civilians considered to be held in Gaza as well as an understanding that Hamas will stop launching airborne firebombs from Gaza toward Israeli territory. In return Israel will agree to the establishment of a port in Gaza and an easing of the blockade on the Strip.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also holding political talks and is expected to meet with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman on Wednesday. From there, Abbas will head to Qatar to meet with officials.

Earlier this week, government sources from Ramallah told Haaretz that Israel and Egypt are advancing an outline for a plan to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza without the involvement of the Palestinian Authority.

A senior Palestinian official familiar with the matter said that an Israeli official recently paid a visit to Qatar to see what progress can be made for the Strip's humanitarian cause at the same time that the Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, was on a work visit in Washington.

The Palestinian official noted that according to the plan being promoted in Jerusalem and in Cairo, the UN will be in charge of pushing ahead projects in Gaza, while the Egyptians will be partners in supervising and overseeing the implementation of the plans.

He said that funding will mostly come from Gulf countries such as Qatar, but also from the European Union and the United States.

Sources in the Strip say that some 650 million dollars are expected to be invested in Gaza projects and that the sum will not go through Hamas or the PA.

Hamas has yet to issue an official response to the outline of the emerging deal, but senior members of the organization are expressing willingness and saying that they expect an improvement in the situation in Gaza.

Nonetheless, concerns still prevail over the potential collapse of the deal.

A Hamas official assesses that the current scenario does not include reconciliation between Hamas and the PA. The source says that "Gaza is on the verge of a total collapse, partly due to the sanctions that were imposed by the PA; therefore, Hamas will not hesitate to accept a deal that will lighten the load of Gazans and truly help in removing the blockade, even at a political price."

A Hamas political source told Haaretz that the Strip is facing three possible scenarios: A full confrontation with Israel; a deal that will allow for calm in the long term and will include an inner Palestinian reconciliation, a return of a Palestinian government to the Strip, a prisoner swap deal and the removal of the blockade or a deal that will allow for an initial calm, after which the two sides will try to promote a prisoner swap deal and eventually achieve an easing of the blockade, that will in turn guarantee calm for the long run.

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