The measures, seen in the context of the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a long-term ceasefire.

HAMAS MEMBERS in Gaza. (photo credit: REUTERS)
HAMAS MEMBERS in Gaza. (photo credit: REUTERS)


Palestinian officials in Ramallah have expressed deep concern over reports that Israel and Hamas are close to reaching a long-term ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip.

The officials warned that Hamas was not authorized to conduct negotiations with Israel or any other party, particularly regarding the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The warning came as Hamas announced that Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Jamie McGoldrick, returned to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to pursue efforts to reach a long-term ceasefire deal with Israel.

Shortly after the UN official arrived in the Gaza Strip through the Erez Border Crossing, Palestinians fired four rockets (from the Gaza Strip) into Israel. The IDF reported that two of the rockets fell in open territory, while two were intercepted by Iron Dome. It was not immediately clear who was behind the rocket attacks.

In addition to the UN, Egypt and Qatar have also been working toward enforcing previous understandings reached between Israel and Hamas to achieve calm and ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.

According to various sources, Israel recently took some steps to ease restrictions on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.

The measures, seen in the context of the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a long-term ceasefire, include expanding the fishing zone for fishermen and issuing thousands of permits for merchants from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel.

Hamas officials have denied that they are working to reach a new agreement with Israel.

According to the officials, the current mediation efforts by the UN, Egypt and Qatar are only designed to “enhance” previous ceasefire understandings with Israel.

Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials, however, said they are convinced that Hamas is seeking to reach a political deal with Israel in order to ensure the movement’s continued control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s actions, the officials claimed, are also aimed at appeasing the administration of US President Donald Trump and paving the way for introducing the “Deal of the Century” – reference to Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for Mideast peace.

“The Palestinian leadership is following with deep concern the reports about a possible truce between Israel and Hamas,” said Ahmed Majdalani, member of the PLO Executive Committee. “Hamas is refusing to announce the details of the agreement with Israel. The question is: what will Hamas receive in return?”

Majdalani and other officials in Ramallah said that Hamas was seeking to conclude a “political agreement” (with Israel) to guarantee its continued control of the Gaza Strip.

They pointed out that Hamas had violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007 and consequently does not have a mandate to reach any deal on behalf of the Palestinians.

Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, said that the purported ceasefire agreement would “deepen divisions” among the Palestinians and pave the way for the establishment of a separate Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip. “Hamas is acting on its own and without consulting with other Palestinian factions,” Ahmed said. “We will consider any agreement Hamas reaches [with Israel] as illegitimate and against the interests of our people.”

Commenting on the reported ceasefire talks, Wasel Abu Yusef, another member of the PLO Executive Committee, denounced the “malicious plan to undermine the Palestinian national enterprise.” He and several senior PLO and Fatah officials in the West Bank accused Hamas of assisting the Trump administration in its effort to promote the unseen “Deal of the Century.”

Palestinian political analysts said that any agreement between Israel and Hamas would sabotage PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s initiative to hold long over Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections.

“By reaching a deal with Israel, Hamas is sending a message that it’s impossible to reach any agreement with Abbas,” a Ramallah-based analyst told The Jerusalem Post. “We are in a situation today where Hamas knows that only a deal with Israel would ensure its continued control of the Gaza Strip. Israel wants a truce with Hamas, while Abbas wants to remove Hamas from power.”

Another Palestinian political analyst said that any deal between Hamas and Israel would “signal the death of Palestinian unity.”

Hamas, the analyst told the Post, has given up on Egyptian efforts to end the rift with Abbas’s Fatah faction.

“Obviously, Hamas has reached the conclusion that its dispute with Abbas and Fatah will not be resolved in the near future,” he remarked. “Hamas and Abbas can’t agree on anything. On the other hand, it appears the UN, Egypt and Qatar are finding it easier to reach a deal between Israel and Hamas than between Abbas and Hamas.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post