A Palestinian woman reacts after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest marking Land Day and the first anniversary of a surge of border protests, at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 30, 2019. .
(photo credit: ASHRAF ABU AMRAH / REUTERS)
The weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border fence will continue despite Egypt’s ongoing efforts to reach ceasefire understandings between the Palestinian factions and Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials said on Saturday.
Palestinian sources claimed that the Egyptian intelligence officials who have been mediating between the Palestinian factions and Israel in the past few days have made progress toward reaching ceasefire understandings. The Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip are now waiting for Israel’s response to their demands, the sources added.
The sources claimed that Israel has accepted most of the factions’ demands, including the expansion of the fishing zone, the reopening of the border crossings, the delivery of additional Qatari funds to the Gaza Strip, and creating job opportunities for thousands of unemployed Gazans.
The Egyptian team, headed by senior General Intelligence Service official Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, met on Thursday and Friday with leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions, and discussed with them ways of achieving a truce with Israel.
Khalil al-Haya, a member of the Hamas “political bureau,” said the Egyptian intelligence officials carried “positive responses” from Israel. The Egyptian officials, he said, will return to Israel on Sunday to receive time lines for the implementation of the reported understandings.
Haya said the weekly protests along the border with Israel, called the “Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege,” will continue until they achieve their goals. “In the past year, the weekly marches achieved some of their goals,” he added. “They will achieve more goals.”
He was speaking to reporters during a tour of the site of Saturday’s mass protests near the border with Israel on the occasion of the first anniversary of the protests, which coincided with the commemoration of Land Day. The Hamas official said the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will continue to put pressure on Israel until it complies with their “legitimate demands.”
On Friday, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh phoned Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and the deputy director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, Amr Hanafi, and discussed with them the efforts to reach ceasefire understandings with Israel.
A source close to Hamas said it was unclear at this stage whether Qatar would continue to provide financial aid to the Gaza Strip. The source was commenting on a report that suggested that Qatar had agreed to send $40 million in cash as part of the reported Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire understandings.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said the protests will continue until the blockade on the Gaza Strip is removed. “We won’t give up Jerusalem and the Arab Golan Heights,” Zahar said. “We won’t abandon the use of weapons against the occupation.”
Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad official and head of the committee in charge of the weekly protests, said on Saturday that the demonstrations will continue for another year. He said the Palestinians were determined to thwart US President Donald Trump’s unpublished plan for peace in the Middle East, known as the “deal of the century.”
Speaking to reporters near the border with Israel, al-Batsh said Saturday’s protests were designed to prepare the Palestinians for a “new phase during which they will continue the struggle to restore their stolen rights and end the siege on the Gaza Strip.”
New Right members of the cabinet, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, have already said they plan to vote against any such ceasefire understanding with Hamas that might be brought to the cabinet.
“Minister Shaked and I will vote against Israel’s signing of an agreement of surrender to Hamas. After more than 1,000 rockets this year, tens of thousands of incendiary balloons and a million Israelis in shelters, [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar should have already parted from this world rather than making dictates that turns him into a victorious peacock.
“Those who think that surrender will buy us calm are mistaken. Every surrender to terrorism only whets the appetite for more terror,” Bennett said adding that, “we now anticipate an additional wave of terror, which will be much more violent.”
“It’s not for nothing that Israelis feel humiliated,” Bennett said. “Sinwar and Haniyeh are celebrating their victory, without any fear that Israel will assassinate them. This is not how one creates deterrence.”Eytan Halon and Tovah Lazarof contributed to this story.
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