Report: Ceasefire deal includes end to Gaza protests, lifting blockade
Hamas officials arrive in Gaza to discuss ceasefire with Israel, which according to Lebanese paper Al Akhbar includes sea port and airport for the strip in Egypt and millions in financial aid to the Palestinians in return for end to 'March of Return' protests.
The Hamas delegation that arrived in Gaza on Thursday will discuss a ceasefire agreement with Israel that includes the improvement of living conditions in the strip as well as a sea port and an airport in Egypt, according to a report Friday in Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar.
Meanwhile, a senior source told Ynet that a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel, which will include the return of two Israeli citizens and the remains of two IDF soldiers, will happen—if at all—only at the end of the agreement's implementation.
A high-level Hamas delegation entered Gaza Thursday evening through the Rafah border crossing after holding talks in Cairo on the reconciliation agreement with Fatah as well as a possible ceasefire with Israel.
Most of the Hamas leadership is based in Gaza but was joined by exiled members of the group's political bureau, including Saleh al-Arouri, a founder of the Hamas military wing in the West Bank and a mastermind of violent attacks against Israelis in the past; Hamas's spokesman abroad Husam Badran; senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk; and Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq.
Deputy Hamas leader in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, accompanied the delegation to Cairo and returned with it to Gaza on Thursday.
The Hamas website Safa said Friday this marks the first time all members of the political bureau have come together in Gaza.
Hamas officials have said guarantees were given that the delegation would not be targeted by Israel and that progress has been made toward a truce that could pave the way for a UN-led reconstruction of Gaza.
Israel's Security Cabinet is set to convene on Sunday in an underground bunker in the Jerusalem area in order to discuss a wide-scale arrangement on the Gaza Strip. The ministers will be briefed on the discussions held under the auspices of UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov and the Egyptians.
According to Al Akhbar, the first stage of the ceasefire agreement will come into effect within a week and will include an end to "March of Return" protest activities on the Israel-Gaza border.
In return, the Kerem Shalom border crossing will resume activity and the Rafah border crossing with Egypt will be reopened on a more permanent basis.
The second stage will include the improvement of living conditions in the Gaza Strip and the complete removal of the blockade, according to the Lebanese paper.
Israel will allow the transfer of goods into the strip and increase the electricity it provides Gaza.
The third stage of the plan, according to the report, will include the launch of UN humanitarian projects already proposed in the past, including the construction of a sea port for Gaza in Ismailia, Egypt, operating an airport for the strip in Sinai, as well as the construction of a power plant in the Egyptian peninsula. In addition, the reconstruction of Gaza will go ahead.
This reported outline was presented by UN Envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh during their meeting last week in Gaza.
Among the other incentives to the Palestinians in the plan is increasing the power supply to the strip to four additional hours a day, $31 million in aid from Qatar, and $91 million in aid for UNRWA. In addition, $10 million will be transferred to the strip to pay salaries to Palestinian Authority employees in the Gaza Strip.
A Hamas official told Al Akhbar that "there is an agreement in principle to the Egyptian-international roadmap for calm in the strip."
However, Hamas's political leadership wishes to first have a discussion on the plan before giving the go-ahead for the final negotiations.
On Saturday, Hamas and Fatah delegations are scheduled to return to Egypt and have a joint meeting with Egyptian intelligence officials on the internal Palestinian reconciliation. If no new disagreements emerge, the two warring factions might officially announce the adoption of the Egyptian roadmap for the reconciliation, signed by the two sides several months ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.