Report: Israel & Hamas May Be Nearing Comprehensive Cease-fire Agreement
Israel and Hamas, the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, reportedly are nearing a cease-fire agreement to end a year of intermittent violence. Every week for 12 months, Hamas has staged “March of Return” protests along the security fence that have consistently descended into rioting and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops. Concurrently, Hamas adopted the tactic of sending incendiary or explosive devices dangling from kites or balloons across the border, causing mass ecological damage in Israel estimated at around $10 million. Last November, the sides were on the precipice of full-blown war after Hamas fired over 500 rockets at the Jewish state in a 24-hour period. And last month, three missiles were launched toward central Israeli cities, one of which struck a residential building, injuring seven civilians. For its part, Israel has conducted well over 100 strikes in the Gaza Strip and recently destroyed the office of Hamas chief Ismael Haniyeh in addition to the terror group’s “secret” headquarters. Now, according to Arab media, the sides are close to burying the hatchet in the form of a truce that will include a prisoner exchange to return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas since the 2014 war. Hamas also is holding two Israeli civilians who crossed into the Palestinian enclave on their own. Meanwhile, Jerusalem apparently has fulfilled the first part of its bargain by doubling the range of the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast to about 20 miles. Time is, nevertheless, of the essence, with mediators quoting Hamas sources as saying that Israel cannot postpone the “understandings” already reached until after its April 9 national elections. This is likely Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s preference, given that concessions to Hamas at this time could impact negatively on his standing ahead of the vote. Complicating matters are reports that Iran’s wholly-owned Palestinian subsidiary, the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad, is planning a “significant” terror attack to undermine any deal between Israel and Hamas.