Speculation abounds over possible Hamas-Israel truce

By Nour Abu Aisha

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – A truce between Hamas and Israel could be imminent, raising hopes that Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip may soon be eased, according to Palestinian political analysts.

The deal is reportedly being brokered by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov, along with Egyptian and Qatari officials.

Last Thursday, members of Hamas’s political bureau — including several who are based abroad — met in Gaza for the first time to discuss prospects for a ceasefire.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Palestinian political analyst Tayseer Hasan Mahasen pointed out that Thursday’s meeting coincides with stepped-up political and diplomatic activity pertaining to the Palestine-Israel file.

According to Mahasen, Cairo is keen to play a lead role in the mediation process in hopes of retaining its historical status as chief arbitrator in Palestine-Israel negotiations.

He went on to note that the Ramallah-based Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had not responded positively to recent Egyptian proposals for Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.

Mahasen believes that Egypt presented Hamas with a proposed truce agreement with Israel in order to bypass foot-dragging by Fatah and the thorny issue of Hamas-Fatah relations.

“Egypt proposed the gradual dismantlement of the [Israeli] blockade [on Gaza]," he said, adding that Hamas was expected to provide Egypt with a response to the truce proposal later Monday.

Fatah, however, Mahasen said, “may seek to obstruct the truce deal’s implementation”.

On Sunday, Fatah criticized what it described as Hamas’s “shameful negotiations” with Israel.

The truce proposal, Fatah said in a statement, was aimed at “separating Gaza from the homeland [i.e., the West Bank] and establishing a statelet [in Gaza], which would represent the nail in the coffin of our national project”.

Hamas responded by accusing Fatah of attempting to undermine efforts to achieve Palestinian national unity and end Israel’s 11-year blockade of Gaza.

Mustafa al-Sawaf, a Palestinian writer and political analyst, said that, in return for any easing of the blockade, Hamas would be expected to halt all resistance activity along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

“All Israel wants from Hamas is a state of calm [along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone],” al-Sawaf said.

In recent weeks, Palestinian activists have been flying flaming kites and balloons over Israeli territory as part of ongoing rallies along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

According to Israeli officials, the improvised aerial weapons have caused a number of fires inside Israel, causing significant material damage but not resulting in any deaths or injuries.

Since the Gaza rallies began on Mar. 30, more than 150 Palestinian protesters have been martyred — and thousands more injured — by Israeli army troops deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.

“Meanwhile,” al-Sawaf said, “the only thing Hamas wants is the total lifting of the blockade. It doesn’t want superficial half-measures.”

Al-Sawaf does not believe the proposed truce would include the release of Israeli nationals allegedly being held captive by Hamas.

“Hamas has successfully managed to uncouple the prisoners file from other issues of contention,” he said.

Since 2014, Hamas has reportedly held four Israelis, including two soldiers, whose fate remains unknown.

Following a longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity”, the resistance group has steadfastly refused to disclose whether the captives are dead or alive.

Mahmoud Merdawi, a Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs, says the notion of a Hamas-Israel truce remains beset by numerous obstacles, including opposition from Fatah.

“Until now, there is no [Palestinian] national consensus regarding the truce proposal,” Merdawi told Anadolu Agency.