Israel warns Hamas of war despite elections; Egypt, U.N. push truce

Hamas asked the Egyptians to keep the Rafah border crossing open in spite of the PA’s decision to withdraw its employees from the terminal.

Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH)
Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017.
Israel warned Hamas that elections would not stop it from launching a military campaign against the terror organization in Gaza if necessary, according to a report on Channel 12 Saturday night.
It sent a message to Hamas through a mediator warning of retaliatory action should the terrorists continue their weekly violent riots along the Gaza border fence. The Prime Minister’s Office had no response to the report.
Hamas leaders are scheduled to visit Cairo this week to resume talks on a ceasefire understanding with Israel and on the failed reconciliation talks with their rival, Fatah.
They will meet with Egyptian intelligence officials, Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said on Saturday.
The discussions, he said, will focus on the security situation in the Gaza Strip and the continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.
The announcement came after Egyptian intelligence officials and UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov met on Friday with Hamas leaders in the coastal enclave and discussed with them the recent truce understandings with Israel and Palestinian “reconciliation.”
The planned visit comes amid an unconfirmed report to the effect that Egypt and the UN have offered Hamas a series of measures to ease the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip. The measures include the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between the Strip and Egypt, the reports claimed.
Palestinian sources said Hamas warned during the discussions that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s intention to form a new government would deepen divisions among the Palestinians. Hamas demanded that Abbas form a “national unity” government that would prepare for long overdue parliamentary elections, the sources added.
Last week, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced the resignation of his government, days after the Fatah Central Committee recommended that Abbas establish a new government consisting of PLO factions and independent personalities. Hamas has rejected the call, saying it would solidify the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas leaders, according to the sources, also explained to the Egyptian and UN officials why their organization refused to receive the third tranche of the $15-million Qatari grant to the Strip.
They complained that Israel was trying to impose new conditions as to how the Qatari funds should be distributed. Instead of handing $15m. to Hamas in January, Qatar distributed $10m. to 94,000 poor Gaza families. Qatar also signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN to provide it with $20 m. over the next year for humanitarian projects in Gaza.
Hamas also asked the Egyptians to keep the Rafah border crossing open in spite of the PA’s decision to withdraw its employees from the terminal.
Last week, the Egyptians reopened the crossing – for the first time since the PA’s decision to abandon the terminal.
Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar claimed on Saturday that the discussions in the Gaza Strip resulted in an agreement to keep the border crossing open for travelers in both directions. The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry will manage the Palestinian side of the terminal, it said, adding that Hamas and Egypt agreed to increase trade exchange between them so as to enable Hamas to collect taxes to pay its employees’ salaries.
In return, Hamas will make an effort to calm the situation along the Gaza-Israel border and stop Palestinians from approaching the security fence, Al-Akhbar reported. The UN pledged to fund some temporary projects that would provide work for tens of thousands of employees before the end of this month, it said.
However, senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan said on Friday that his movement was preparing to “increase the momentum” of the weekly demonstrations along the border with Israel. The protests, which began last March, will continue until they achieve all of their goals and until the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, Radwan said. He stressed the importance of maintaining the “peaceful and popular nature” of the demonstrations.
On Friday, some 10,000 Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in several locations along the Gaza border fence as part of the weekly “Great March of Return,” burning tires and throwing rocks and hand grenades at IDF troops.
Soldiers responded with riot-dispersal means, including firing rubber-coated steel rounds and live bullets at the protesters.
According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, 32 Palestinians were wounded and there were no fatalities. Two paramedics were also injured, including one female paramedic who was hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired by the IDF.
Palestinian media reported that the protests were held in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The ministry said more than 240 Palestinians have been killed and 22,000 injured since the beginning of the “Great March of Return” protests along the Gaza border that began on March 30, calling for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed and several wounded since March, one by a Palestinian sniper and another during a botched special forces operation inside Gaza.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in the blockaded coastal enclave has warned numerous times that health facilities and services will soon be forced to cease operation due to the fuel crisis.
In the West Bank, at least 15 Palestinians were wounded in clashes that broke out between Palestinians and IDF troops outside the village of al-Mughayyir northeast of Ramallah on Friday, in protest over the death of 38-year-old Hamdi Saadeh Naasan last week. The IDF has alleged that he was shot by Israeli settlers. Police are investigating the incident.
Maan news agency reported that soldiers fired live bullets and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters, who threw rocks at the troops.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.