Gaza Officials Warn of Escalation Over Israel's 'Foot-dragging' in Implementing Ceasefire Agreements

Hamas's rocket stockpile will surprise Israel, military commander says

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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A Palestinian hurls stones at Israeli forces amidst clashes during a protest by the border with Israel marking al-Quds Day in the central Gaza Strip, May 31, 2019.
A Palestinian hurls stones at Israeli forces amidst clashes during a protest by the border with Israel marking al-Quds Day in the central Gaza Strip, May 31, 2019.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Officials in Hamas and other Gaza-based organizations warn of escalation in this week's planned demonstration along the border fence with Israel, over what they describe as foot-dragging in implementing agreements reached with Israel.

A senior official in the organizing committee of the weekly March of Return demonstrations told Haaretz that Palestinian factions, including Hamas, are demanding the transfer of additional funds from Qatar, a further easing on the import of dual-purpose goods from Israel, meaning goods which can be used for civilian or military purposes, and progressing with humanitarian projects.

Some in Gaza say that although the security situation is calm, their conditionsת other than added hours of electricity and expansion of the fishing zone in the Mediterranean, have not improved since the last round of clashes ended in early May.

>> Read more: At odds with military, Netanyahu uses Gaza fishing zone for collective punishment | Analysis ■ Netanyahu might need a war before the election | Opinion

A Gaza resident who works for an international aid organization said that ahead of the end of Ramadan, he saw long lines forming outside banks. He said that these were Gazans who were waiting to withdraw money sent to them by relatives abroad for the holiday. “It was a harsh scene, showing that increasing numbers of people are relying on help from their relatives, or on monthly sums of $100 from the Qatari money,” he said. “It’s painful that Gazans are now supported by people in other countries. It’s just getting worse,” he added.

As part of the negotiations with Israel over the last month, Palestinian organizations agreed to keep demonstrators away from the border fence, stop launching incendiary balloons and end the nightly operations meant to disrupt the lives of Israelis living along the border.

Two weeks ago, a day after Israel announced it was expanding the fishing zone as part of the negotiations, Gazans launched incendiary balloons over the border, causing 11 brushfires in Gaza border communities. Israel restricted the fishing zone once again in response, but re-extended it on Tuesday.

Gazans said that the relative quiet was not just a result of the agreements, but because of the daily Ramadan fast, which has ended. A member of the organizing committee told Haaretz that next Friday, demonstrators will return to their nighttime riots near the fence, as well as renewing the balloon launches.

On the Hamas website, the commander of the rocket unit in the military wing of Hamas said that the organization has a stockpile of rockets that will surprise Israel. He added that in the last round of clashes, his organization found a way to overcome the Iron Dome aerial defense system: shooting multiple rockets at one target.

At the same time, there are reports from Gaza and Ramallah that inter-Palestinian reconciliation talks have resumed. A member of the PLO executive committee, Saleh Rafat, said that delegations from Hamas, Fatah and other factions would leave for Cairo after the holiday to attempt to form a unity government, among other reasons.

In early May, factions in Gaza launched nearly 700 rockets into Israel, marking the largest outbreak of violence since the 2014 Gaza war. Four Israelis were killed and 194 wounded by the rockets. The Palestinian Ministry of health reported 25 killed in Gaza, and 177 Palestinians were wounded, mainly by Israeli air strikes. After two days of hostilities, Israel and the Palestinian factions reached a ceasefire agreement, ahead of Israel's hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest and Israeli Independence Day.

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