Gaza factions warn Israel delaying aid could reignite fighting

Mofeed Sabit (64) sits on a sofa on a road covered in debris from air strikes that destroyed nearby buildings last month in Magazzi, Gaza Strip (John Minchillo - AP)

Al-Jazeera  /  June 23, 2021

Palestinian groups say they reject the idea of linking the reconstruction of Gaza to a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have warned Israel against delays in lifting restrictions imposed on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave and impeding reconstruction after last month’s devastating attacks.

The warning was issued on Tuesday after leaders of various factions in the Gaza Strip met in a Hamas office to discuss the latest developments surrounding a ceasefire reached in May between Israel and Hamas, which ended the 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza.

The Palestinian factions presented a list of demands to Israel that included the reopening of border crossings, allowing the transfer of financial aid from Qatar, and the reopening of Gaza’s fishing zone.

The factions warned if Israel refuses to comply with their demands, they would resume launching incendiary balloons into Israel and organize rallies at the fence with Israel.

The groups also issued a veiled threat to renew rocket fire.

Palestinian factions said they rejected attempts to link reconstruction efforts in Gaza to a prisoner swap.

“We will not accept pressure on our people or any attempt to link files with each other,” the factions said in a statement.

Israel has demanded that Hamas hand over two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two soldiers held by the group.

Israeli media also reported that United Nations and Egyptian mediators told Hamas the rebuilding of Gaza should be linked to a prisoner-exchange agreement with Israel.

“Our people are ready to challenge and impose more equations. Our great people will never be silent and the enemy will see that we are ready for all options, and we will resist it by all popular and other means,” the factions added.

Talal Abu Zarifa, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Anadolu news agency while Israel wants to link the reconstruction of Gaza and the opening of its crossings to the exchange of Israeli soldiers, Palestinians will not agree to it.

“Soldiers are in exchange for Palestinian prisoners,” said Abu Zarifa.

In a separate statement, Hamas’s leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said: “The enemy will not succeed in its policy of blackmail and arm-twisting, and we will not accept pressure on our people or attempts to link files.”

Reporting from Gaza, Al-Jazeera correspondent Wael al-Dahdouh said the Palestinian factions agreed to give mediators a chance to find a solution, but they added “the resistance” was ready for all options, in reference to a possible renewal of attacks.

‘Failed’ UN talks

The meeting came a day after Hamas said its talks with the United Nations over the humanitarian situation in the besieged Gaza Strip had failed.

Sinwar said a meeting in Gaza City with a senior UN delegation – including the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland – was “completely negative” and accused Israel of “blackmailing the Palestinian factions including Hamas” over solving the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The latest developments come less than a month after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire that ended an 11-day Israel assault on Gaza on May 21.

The Israeli onslaught killed at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children. Thirteen people were killed in Israel, including two children.

The Israeli attacks also destroyed 1,148 housing and commercial units in Gaza and partially damaged 15,000 others, leaving more than 100,000 civilians displaced in UN-run schools and other hosting communities.

SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA