The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar – affiliated with Hamas – has reported on 3rd Nov. 2018 that according a draft agreement between Israel and Hamas the later will commit to restricting border protests and restict violence until the end of 2018, while Israel will agree to lift 70 percent of its blockade on the Stript and expand the fishing zone to 14 nautical miles. Apparently for the first time since August 2018, significant progress was again made in contacts for an Egyptian-mediated arrangement.
One proof of the progress was the “return march” held on November 2nd Nov., 2018: Participation in the march was limited compared with previous weeks, the demonstrators did not approach the security fence, no attempts were made to break through the fence and no incendiary kites and balloons were launched into Israeli territory and Hamas’ restraint force kept demonstrators away from the fence.
Despite this 32nd protests – during the “Return March” campaign – were significantly calmer than those 31 held in previous weeks, eighty-seven protesters were wounded, 32 have been evacuated to hospitals, with seven of those being wounded by live gunfire. The rest were treated for tear gas inhalation. However no severe injuries were reported.
A senior Hamas official told Haaretz the Palestinian factions in the Strip decided to put an end to the violent protests along the border with Israel, as well as stop the launching of airborne firebombs. According to the official, the protesters will also stop setting tires on fire and approaching the Israeli side of the border.
The lowered level of violence of the last “return march” was apparently the result of a number of understandings achieved through Egyptian mediation. As part of the attempts to reach an arrangement, an Egyptian delegation headed by Ahmed Abdel Khaliq, head of the Israeli and Palestinian directorate in Egyptian General Intelligence, came to the Gaza Strip. The delegation held a series of meeting with representatives of Hamas, the other Palestinian organizations, and members of the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March.
At a conference held ahead of Friday’s protests [2nd Nov. 2018], the factions – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front and several others – agreed to lower the level of friction in light of the talks brokered by Egypt. The decision also follows Israel’s decision to expand the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza Strip’s coast and transfer funds from Qatar for Hamas salaries.
The Draft agreement
The published draft also includes – i.a. – following clauses:
- Israel agreeing to allow 5,000 Gazan workers under the age of 40 into Israel for employment,
- Egypt will open the Rafah crossing, which it has mostly maintained closed since Hamas took over the Strip in 2007.
- Israel will strive to leave its crossing with Gaza open and the United Nations will advance projects in the Strip that will create tens of thousands of jobs.
- The Palestinian Authority will pay Hamas civil servants 80 percent of their salaries and not object to Qatar funding Hamas salaries for at least six months.
- At a later stage Egypt would work to advance the prisoners’ exchange deal between Hamas and Israel and institute a ceasefire of at least three years with international supervision and Russian and UN sponsorship
- Egypt would work to extend the fishing area to 14 miles, leave the Rafah Crossing permanently open and support infrastructure projects and projects that were expected to provide about 30,000 jobs in the Gaza Strip.
Neither Hamas nor Israel has verified these details. However “Palestinian sources” explained that in fact no lull agreement had been reached, but an equation of “quiet in return for quiet” had been formulated, based on the ceasefire of 2014.
On 31st Oct. 2018, Israel reportedly agreed to allow Qatar to transfer funds to Hamas to pay the salaries of its civil servants after Israel negotiated with Qatar and received guarantees that the money will be transferred only for the stated purpose.