Egypt demands end to balloon attacks on Israel

Hamas, Islamic Jihad officials may be invited to Cairo

Operations of the Ahfad Al-Nasser balloon unit in the Gaza Strip, June 13, 2020 (photo credit: AHFAD AL-NASSER BALLOON UNIT)
Operations of the Ahfad Al-Nasser balloon unit in the Gaza Strip, June 13, 2020
Egypt has demanded that Hamas and other Palestinian groups stop the incendiary balloon attacks on Israel, Palestinian sources said Wednesday.
Senior Egyptian intelligence officials contacted leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and warned them that the continued attacks on Israel could lead to an all-out military confrontation in the Gaza Strip, the sources said.
Leaders of the groups may also be invited to Cairo for urgent discussions with Egyptian officials on ways of averting another war in the Gaza Strip, the sources revealed.
The Egyptian officials said they also were in contact with Israel to calm the situation and prevent a further deterioration in wake of the latest incendiary balloon attacks from the Gaza Strip, a source close to Hamas and PIJ said.
The Hamas and PIJ leaders told the Egyptian mediators Israel’s failure to ease restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip was the main reason behind the decision to resume the firing of the balloons toward Israel, the source said.
“The Egyptians said they would raise the issue with Israel in the coming hour, but they demanded that Hamas and all the Palestinian factions instruct the balloon units to immediately stop the attacks on Israel,” the source added.
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, confirmed his movement was in contact with Egypt regarding the tensions. He did not provide further details.
Radwan accused Israel of “foot-dragging” with regard to understandings reached between Hamas and Israel to ease restrictions imposed on Gaza.
The understandings were reached between the two sides several months ago under the auspices of Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations.
Another source in the Gaza Strip said Hamas and PIJ leaders, who spoke to the Egyptian intelligence officials over the past few hours, made it clear that the Palestinian groups were not interested at this stage in another war with Israel.
“They complained to the Egyptians that Israel was deliberately avoiding fulfilling its obligations under the terms of the understandings, including facilitating various economic and health projects in the Gaza Strip,” the source said.
Some Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday said the incendiary balloon attacks were also part of a joint Hamas-PIJ effort to exert pressure on Qatar to continue its cash payments to thousands of Palestinian families in the coastal enclave. The two Palestinian groups have expressed fear that Qatar may stop the cash grants, which are renewed every six months, at the end of September.
It was not clear whether Qatar intends to continue delivering the cash grants to the Gaza Strip.