Palestinians gather in front of the gate of Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza during a protest against the blockade, in the southern Gaza Strip July 3, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Amid growing fears of the collapse of the recent ceasefire understandings between the Palestinian groups in the Gaza and Israel, the Egyptians have summoned Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders to Cairo for urgent talks on ways to avert a military confrontation with Israel.
On the eve of the visit, Islamic Jihad threatened to target major Israeli cities if Israel assassinates any of its leaders.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar headed to Cairo on Thursday at the invitation of the director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, Gen. Abbas Kamel. Islamic Jihad representatives were also scheduled to arrive in Cairo in the coming hours, Palestinian sources said.
Ziad Nakhalaeh, secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, the second largest Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip, warned that his men will attack Israeli cities if Israel resumes its policy of targeted assassinations.
“We will target major [Israeli] cities in response to the targeting of resistance cadres,” Nakhalaeh said in a statement. “We will respond with full force, regardless of any [ceasefire] understandings.”
He accused Israel of failing to implement the Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire understandings with the Gaza-based Palestinian groups. “The resistance is linked to Israel’s existence,” Nakhalah said. “As long as it exists, the resistance will continue.”
His threat came in response to Israeli accusations that Islamic Jihad was behind the launching of a rocket towards Israel earlier this week. The IDF named Islamic Jihad officials directly and published their photos – a move that has been interpreted by the terror group as a warning that Israel was planning to assassinate its leaders.
On Tuesday, Israel reduced the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip from 15 nautical miles to six. On Thursday, the IDF confirmed that two rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regional councils. The rockets exploded in open areas without causing injuries or damage.
Hamas also accused Israel of “procrastination” with regards to implementing the ceasefire understandings. It said that Israel’s decision to minimize the fishing zone was proof that it is engaging in a policy of “prevarication.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Israel’s shelling of some targets in the Gaza Strip, which came in response to rocket and incendiary balloon attacks, was an act of “aggression on our Palestinian people and an escalation of the crises to divert attention from its policy of foot-dragging.”
The Palestinians, he added, are “determined to resist the occupation, end the blockade [on the Gaza Strip] and restore their stolen rights.”
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