Indenciary balloons discovered on Gaza border, January 6, 2018.
(photo credit: BATIA HOLIN)
"The Egyptian delegation is doing everything it can to lower tension and prevent war in the Gaza Strip," said a senior Gaza official to The Jerusalem Post's sister paper Maariv. "I think the Israeli side is also not interested in war on the eve of elections."
An Egyptian delegation headed by General Amr Hanafi, entered Israel via the Erez border crossing after meeting with senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar on Tuesday evening.
The delegation discussed a truce with Israel and Hamas's demands to implement an agreement reached four months ago at a meeting with Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar. According to the agreement, Israel must implement the ceasefire in three stages.
The first and most immediate one, is quiet for quiet. The second is the expansion of the fishing area and the entry of various goods into the Gaza Strip. The third stage is to transfer 150 megawatts of electricity to the Gaza Strip, as well as to create projects to provide jobs for the unemployed and open negotiations over maritime passage.
Top Palestinian sources reported that the Egyptian delegation may return with Israeli responses that could lead to an agreement between the sides and reduce the escalation on Israel's southern border.
Hamas's attempts to launch incendiary balloons at Israel actually increased on Tuesday night following the talks, and in the area of El-Bureij, violent disturbances began, in which explosive devices were thrown at the fence and attempts were made to reach the fence. An explosive device that was launched from the Gaza Strip with several incendiary balloons exploded near a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. In response, Israel Air Force planes attacked several terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.
Israel believes that the increased activity by the fence and the influx of the incendiary balloons were intended, inter alia, to put pressure on the Egyptian delegation. According to a cautious assessment, there is a chance that there may be progress in calming the area following the talks.
At this stage of the talks, issues related to the easing of conditions for the residents of the Gaza Strip were raised as well as a solution to paying the salaries of Hamas officials. On the other hand, discussions are being held regarding Hamas' commitment to calm the area and stop the launch of incendiary balloons towards Israel. At the end of the month Hamas will mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Great March of Return protests.
It appears, at least at this stage, that there are no discussion regarding the missing Israelis in the Gaza Strip and the return of the bodies of the IDF soldiers, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul. It appears, then, that the Egyptian delegation is not engaged in extensive negotiations in an attempt to reach a broad-based settlement, which is unlikely to materialize before the elections.
Israel believes that the Egyptians are exerting great pressure on Hamas, especially in light their recent gestures and the easing of conditions, including the release of four Hamas military wing operatives and the opening of the Rafah crossing.
In the meantime, Hamas canceled the weekly flotilla events that take place every week opposite Zikim Beach. According to the organization, the events were canceled due to the weather, but apparently the real reason is the visit of the Egyptian delegation.
Yasser Okbi contributed to this report.
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