Gaza factions threaten escalation, lash out at Egypt over reconstruction delays

Factions in Gaza attacked Egypt for what they said was a deliberate delay of reconstruction in the coastal enclave.

 IRON DOME interceptors destroy rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel in the skies over Ashkelon in May. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
IRON DOME interceptors destroy rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel in the skies over Ashkelon in May.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have threatened to implement a gradual escalation against Israel if their demands are not met concerning reconstruction and the blockade on the Strip, complaining that Egypt is deliberately delaying the reconstruction process, according to Arabic media.

Sources from the factions told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen on Monday that the Egyptians did not respond to a position paper presented by Hamas recently, claiming that Egypt is deliberately delaying the reconstruction process in the coastal enclave.

The sources warned that Hamas and the other factions in Gaza have set a deadline for the end of this year and would begin a gradual escalation starting next week. The sources added that Egypt refused the entry of a large Hamas delegation which was scheduled to visit Cairo at the end of November.

A "leading source" in Hamas told Al-Jazeera on Monday that the movement is studying options for an escalation with Israel, also expressing "strong dissatisfaction" with Egypt's behavior, saying that it has been reluctant in implementing its promises to Gaza. The source, pointing to what they called Israeli attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque and the tightening of measures against Palestinian prisoners, warned that this would "explode the situation."

The Hamas source also claimed that Egypt has been preventing thousands of people from leaving the Gaza Strip without reason. "Egypt's behavior is considered an abandonment of its commitment to compel Israel in return for the resistance's commitment to the truce," the source told Al-Jazeera.

 Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas guard at the Rafah border crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip (credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90) Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas guard at the Rafah border crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip (credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

On Tuesday, Hamas member Suhail al-Hindi told the Palestinian al-Ayyam news that the factions could no longer accept the tightening of the blockade on Gaza and the prevention of reconstruction, warning that they would not remain silent for long.

Unlike the Al-Jazeera and Al-Mayadeen reports, al-Hindi told al-Ayyam that Egypt had made great efforts as a mediator to resolve the various issues. The Hamas official stressed that the factions would "have their say" in the coming days.

Additionally on Tuesday, Palestinian media reported that the factions in Gaza had warned against Israel's procrastination in lifting the siege on Gaza, calling on mediators to assume their responsibilities "before it is too late."

The reports indicated that the "gradual escalation" would likely begin with measures referred to as "popular resistance," usually referring to incendiary and explosive balloons, as well as riots and demonstrations along the Gaza border.

The situation between Gaza and Israel has remained relatively calm since Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, except for a spike in clashes which took place in August.

Despite the claims that Egypt is holding up reconstruction efforts, it signed agreements with Qatar to supply fuel and basic building materials to the Gaza Strip in November.

The expressions of disappointment with Egypt come two weeks after Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhlah attacked Hamas for accepting and facilitating economic aid approved by Israel, saying the aid provided by Egypt to Gaza was an attempt by Israel to "tame Gaza" with economic incentives.

"The resistance should not play the role of an agent in facilitating the work of citizens within the Israeli entity," stressed the PIJ leader in an interview with Al-Mayadeen. "Israel wants to turn the West Bank and Gaza into warehouses for workers, and this is something we do not accept.

"Israel considers Gaza a time bomb that it wants to dismantle, and the new facilities come within this framework," he said. "Everyone in the region is betting that the resistance will become afraid for privileges and facilities and will not enter into a war."

Delegations from both Hamas and the PIJ held talks with Egypt's Intelligence Minister Maj.-Gen. Abbas Kamel in Cairo in October, discussing efforts to reach an extended ceasefire and prisoner swap. Mixed reports from the past few months have claimed both that significant progress was made on these two issues and that little to no progress had been made.