Hamas leader: We are trying to 'reach understandings' with Israel
Ismail Haniyeh says negotiations, mediated by Egypt and UN, over potential ceasefire arrangement are still ongoing and emphasizes that group is willing to agree to 'quiet in exchange for the lifting of the blockade,' In addition, Hamas releases statement criticizing Palestinian Authority for trying to curb Qatari efforts to supply fuel to Gaza.
"We are working with a number of parties, including Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, to reach understandings in order to break the blockade (on the strip)," Haniyeh stressed in a video message at an Islamic conference in Istanbul, Turkey.
Despite recent Hamas statements, indicating that the indirect talks between Israeli officials and the terror group have collapsed, Haniyeh insists the agreement is still possible.
"It is possible to reach the kind of understandings that would lead to quiet in exchange for the lifting of the blockade,” emphasized Hamas leader, adding that “the quiet does not have to come at a political price or at the expense of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation.”
Haniyeh’s statements come amid international efforts to ease the humanitarian crisis in the strip and avoid a flare-up with Israel.
On Tuesday, a truck brought fuel across Israel's border into the Gaza Strip in what sources said was a Qatari and UN-backed drive to improve the conditions in the enclave and stem the escalation of hostilities.
The shipment was a potential slap to the Western-backed administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which opposed the foreign relief plan, since Gaza is controlled by Abbas's rival and the Palestinian president has been using economic pressure in order to wrest back control.
"The Qatari operation to help Gaza's power plant was possible due to the UN efforts, despite the threats made by Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh to the employees of the Energy Authority, that he would withhold their salaries if they cooperate with the Qatari initiative,” Hamas vented in their official statement.
"The residents of the Gaza Strip must live in dignity, without the blockade, without war and without aggression. Hussein al-Sheikh went as far as to appeal to international institutions and transport companies in an attempt to prevent the entry of Qatari fuel into the Gaza Strip. All of his efforts failed," the statement exclaimed.
Nevertheless, the Hamas-led border violence still continues. On Friday morning, an incendiary balloon, with Arabic inscription, was found on the side of the road on Sprinzak Street in the central city of Rishon LeZion. The device was neutralized by police sappers without causing any damage. It was the fifth incendiary balloon to land in the Shfela region this week.
Earlier, an incendiary balloon landed in a schoolyard in the Eshkol Regional Council.
The device had been spotted by the school matron during a routing morning inspection. It did not cause fire and was removed by local security personnel before the school day had started.
Head of the Eshkol Regional Council, Gadi Yarkoni, demanded the government put an end to arson terror.
"The alertness of the school matron and the immediate arrival of local security personnel allowed us to neutralize the balloon before the arrival of the students ... Eshkol has been dealing with balloon terrorism for over sixth months … we demand that the Israeli government act decisively to put an end to this threat to give our children a sense of security," Yarkoni vented.
In addition, at least three fires broke out in Kibbutzim Or HaNer and Erez, in the Gaza border region.
Furthermore, a fire had broken out near a railway track in the city of Sderot, prompting the authorities to close Route 34 between Sderot and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai due to a heavy smoke.
Reuters contributed to this story.