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Gaza on Verge of Explosion, as Egyptian, Qatari Mediation Yields Progress
Palestinian students clean up a classroom at a school destroyed during the recent 11-day war between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement, on the first day of the new academic year in Gaza City, on Aug. 16, 2021. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Gaza on Verge of Explosion, as Egyptian, Qatari Mediation Yields Progress

‘Palestinian resistance parties ready for all scenarios including military confrontation with Israel,’ Hamas official says

[Gaza City] Three months after the fourth war between Israel and Hamas since 2008 ended, concerns that a renewal of large-scale violence is near are rapidly mounting as Palestinians accuse Israel of ignoring its commitments and the understandings reached in the truce that entered into force on May 21.

Israel has not allowed the entry of Qatari cash in to Gaza and insists on tying reconstruction of the strip to the release of two soldiers’ bodies held by Hamas since the 2014 war and of two Israeli civilians who entered the coastal enclave on their own initiative who also are held by Hamas.

This infuriates Palestinians, who live under inhuman conditions exacerbated by the pandemic and an economic crisis, and outrages Hamas, the ruler of the Gaza Strip, which warns of escalation if nothing changes.

“Our resistance is serious about its threats [of military escalation] if Israel continues procrastinating and violating the rights of Gaza residents. All [Israeli] attempts are doomed to failure the way they did in May’s fight. We are ready for all scenarios,” Hamas spokesperson Mohammed Hamada told The Media Line.

Local media outlets on Monday reported the intention of Palestinian factions in Gaza to gradually escalate their actions, including resuming the border protests, launching incendiary balloons into Israel and reactivating the nightly “confusion units” as a way to reject Israel’s tightening policies regarding the blockaded strip, which is seen by many as a step closer to another round of fighting.

I don’t think that we are nearing a military confrontation because the humanitarian, social and economic conditions of the strip can bear no more devastation and Hamas and the Palestinian factions know very well that going to such an option would exacerbate the crisis

In the past, the nightly confusion units composed mostly of young men burned tires to create smoke and threw improvised bombs, in an effort to harass Israeli soldiers and communities near the border.

However, Mansour Abu Krayyem, a Gaza-based political analyst, rules out a renewed war, telling The Media Line: “I don’t think that we are nearing a military confrontation because the humanitarian, social and economic conditions of the strip can bear no more devastation and Hamas and the Palestinian factions know very well that going to such an option would exacerbate the crisis.”

He considers Hamas’ escalatory measures “political maneuvering” designed to pressure Israel rather than a “real escalation.”

“Palestinian movements are aware of the change in the Israeli equation. With the rivals of [former Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu in power, the suffocation and tightening policies against the Gaza Strip are back, leaving behind Netanyahu’s approaches of buying calm with cash,” Abu Krayyem explained.

Since the beginning of the week, the Egyptians and Qataris have upped their tireless efforts to contain the situation and to push Israel to relax its strictures on the Gaza Strip.

Maj. Gen. Ghasan Alyan, head of the Israel Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit, announced on Friday a series of orders easing restrictions imposed on commercial and economic relations with the Gaza Strip, including allowing 1,000 merchants and 350 senior businessmen, provided they are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, to enter Israel through the Erez border crossing for the first time in some 18 months, since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel.

It seems the mediators’ efforts are paying off after all.

Abbas Kamel, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, visited Ramallah and Tel Aviv on Wednesday and, according to unconfirmed reports, all Palestinian escalatory activities were subsequently ordered suspended until further notice, in a sign of progress in the mediators’ talks on achieving significant amelioration of Israeli measures regarding the Gaza Strip.

Yet for many reasons, no prospective Israeli actions will be enough to satisfy Hamas, Abu Krayyem claimed.

“The Israeli easement of restrictions on Gaza is limited to [allowing the entry of] goods related to the humanitarian aspects and certain kinds of basic needs. There is absolutely no talk about allowing in the construction materials, or about the reconstruction process itself,” he said.

Given that “more than 20,000 housing units were destroyed during May’s 11-day war, and the majority of the strip’s infrastructure was targeted and is in dire need of rehabilitation, Hamas and other Palestinian parties are under heavy pressure and have no choice but to take risks in order to achieve some kind of breakthrough,” Abu Krayyem said.

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