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Egyptian Efforts to Forge Long-Term Truce at Stake as Gazan Escalatory Activities Continue

[Gaza City] Egyptian mediators are making tireless efforts to secure a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel, as part of a comprehensive plan to achieve a long-term “calm” in the Gaza Strip.

Yet hopes of achieving an end to cross-border violence faded after Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, threatened to go to another round of fighting unless Israel immediately lifts the blockade and unconditionally allows the start of reconstruction in the Strip, which was devastated during May’s 11-day war.

“The path is open for Gaza to engage in another military confrontation. The Mujahid [Jihadist] Mohammed Deif, the commander-in-chief of the al-Qassam Brigades [the military wing of Hamas], will have something to say in the next war, and Gaza is ready for it,” Sinwar said on Friday at a public event in Gaza City.

Israel has eased some of the restrictions on fishing, imports and other activities imposed on the Gaza Strip, with COGAT, the Israeli military organization responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, saying these steps are “conditional upon the continued preservation of the region’s security stability for the long term.”

The Palestinian movements in Gaza, however, rejected what they called “the Israeli policy of drip-feeding the Strip” and demanded a full and unconditional lifting of the blockade.

“It is our people’s right to live in dignity on our own land. We no longer accept gradual easements for the Strip. The unjust Israeli blockade must be completely lifted and the reconstruction of Gaza must start immediately,” Abdel Latif Qanou, Hamas’ spokesperson, told The Media Line.

Political analyst Mustafa al-Sawwaf termed the Israeli concessions “unconvincing.”

“The Israeli occupation thinks that these insignificant and miserly facilitations will distract Palestinians and stop them from continuing their resistance, but this will never be the case and Palestinians will never accept it,” he told The Media Line.

All Palestinian movements adopt this stance, which explains the increasing public escalatory activities along Gaza’s border with Israel, Sawwaf said.

Since the beginning of the last week, Palestinians have held mass protests along the border fence, and on Thursday reactivated the “night confusion activities,” which include burning tires, throwing explosive devices toward Israeli security personnel and playing phony missile alert noises. Palestinians also recently announced the resumption of the launch of incendiary balloons toward Israeli towns, all in rejection of the blockade imposed since 2007.

A member of the Ahfad al-Nasser incendiary balloon unit told The Media Line, on condition of anonymity, that “this week, we will gradually resume our resistance activities, starting with launching warning, then incendiary and finally explosive balloons.”

He made clear that all activities would continue “until the realization of all Palestinian rights of reconstructing the Strip, lifting the Israeli siege, unconditionally reopening the borders and supporting youth development projects.”

With the chances high for renewed fighting, the key brokers, Egypt and Qatar, rushed to contain the tense situation. According to Israel’s Kan News outlet, the Egyptian and the Qatari mediators are pressuring Hamas to stop the nightly confusion activities on the border area, so as not to endanger the Israeli concessions provided to Gaza.

“There have been several attempts, none successful so far, by mediators to achieve a breakthrough in the truce file,” Sawwaf said. “Although there is a green light from the US administration for Egypt to play this role, in my opinion, the Egyptian side doesn’t have the power to pressure Israel to respond. Yet the coming days may see a significant new development.”

In case of continued deadlock, “The decision to act will be up to all of the Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza and not only Hamas. If Israel continues to procrastinate, this will definitely light the fuse,” Sawwaf said.