Cairo’s efforts to conclude a comprehensive peace deal between Hamas and Israel is under threat after the latter introduced a new condition on lifting the blockade of Gaza.
High level sources in Gaza told “Al-Khaleej Online” newspaper that Hamas welcomed the amended Egyptian initiative, which added to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation process three more conditions, including a prisoner exchange deal, truce in Gaza, and ending the siege on the strip.
Palestinian sources explained that Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) agreed on some of the issues negotiated, most notably not to object to the internal reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, to facilitate the travel of deputies and leaders of the two movements through the crossings, and to begin steps on the ground to open the closed Gaza crossings.
However, the source said that Israel sent a message to Egypt two days ago, declaring it would not cooperate with the efforts of Cairo to lift the siege completely on Gaza until made aware of the fate of its soldiers, adding that the need to start “formal and serious” talks relating to the exchange deal was a condition that would not be waived.
Since 2014, Hamas has held four Israeli soldiers, two of whose fate is unknown. The movement refuses to provide information on their condition before Israel releases prisoners from the West Bank.
Palestinian sources consider the latest condition an obstacle to the success of recent Egyptian efforts. Sources said that Hamas is unwilling to enter into any negotiations or provide any information about the Israeli soldiers detained, agreeing only to a prisoner exchange in return for the freeing of prisoners rearrested after the Gilad Shalit deal in 2011.
Meanwhile, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying parties were “close to the completion of a comprehensive agreement” during a meeting with his Cabinet of Ministers last week, Israeli media has undermined the process.
The Hebrew newspaper “Haaretz” quoted an unnamed Israeli political official as saying that a comprehensive settlement in the Gaza Strip would not take place without the return of Israeli soldiers and the bodies of their soldiers detained by Hamas in Gaza.
At the same time, Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant said on August 4 that a settlement with Hamas was “an Israeli interest” and called for “conditions” to be reached.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza on Tuesday said that 158 Palestinians were killed and 17,500 others were injured since the start of the Great Return March, which started on 30 march on the Gaza border.