Qatari envoy pursues efforts to end Gaza tensions

Hamas: Israel seeking to replace Qatar with UAE as main mediator

EMIR OF QATAR Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha (photo credit: NASEEM ZEITOON/REUTERS)
EMIR OF QATAR Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi on Sunday stepped up his efforts to end the current tensions between Israel and Hamas amid reports that he intends to remain in the region until the two sides reach an agreement.
Emadi, who returned to the Gaza Strip on Saturday night after holding talks with Israeli security and military officials, reportedly informed the leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions of Israel’s response to their list of demands.
“Al-Emadi has decided to pursue his efforts to reach a deal between Hamas and Israel,” a source in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post. “On Sunday, he held intensive talks with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and leaders of other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, but by midday it was unclear if he had made any progress.”
The Palestinian factions are demanding that Israel ease restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip as a precondition for halting the launching of explosives-laden and incendiary balloons toward Israel.
The demands include, among other things, expanding the fishing zone, allowing thousands of workers and merchants to enter Israel, increasing fuel supplies to the power plant in the Gaza Strip and facilitating the delivery of medical supplies and medicine to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
In addition, the factions are demanding that Israel facilitate the implementation of economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip.
The factions have repeatedly accused Israel of “foot-dragging” with regard to implementation of ceasefire understandings reached earlier this year with Israel under the auspices of Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations. Under the terms of the understandings, they say, Israel promised to ease restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip in return for a cessation of incendiary balloon and rocket attacks.
Israel was “exploiting” the recent increase of coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip to “step up its pressure on the Palestinian factions,” a source told the Post.
According to the sources, Israel believes Hamas is under pressure because of the coronavirus outbreak among the general population in the Gaza Strip, which has been under curfew for the past six days to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Despite the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Palestinian factions told al-Emadi that if Israel does not comply with their demands, they are prepared for an all-out military confrontation,” a source said.
Emadi, for his part, has informed the factions that Doha was waiting for a green light from Israel to deliver another cash grant to the Gaza Strip.
A Hamas official said Qatar has pledged another $30 million in financial aid to thousands of families in the Gaza Strip as part of a new ceasefire agreement with Israel.
“On Saturday night, it seemed we were close to reaching a new agreement [with Israel],” the official said. “It’s not clear why Israel keeps coming up with new demands.”
The official said he did not rule out the possibility that Israel was deliberately working to undermine the Qatari mediation efforts in order to bring the Egyptian mediators back into the picture.
“It’s also possible that Israel is paving the way for the United Arab Emirates to replace Qatar as the main player in the Gaza Strip conflict,” he said.
In 2017, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, citing its alleged support for terrorism as the main reason.