Egypt hosts Palestinian groups, urges calm with Israel

A member of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas patrols on border with Egypt, in Rafah in the southern of Gaza Strip July 5, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 03 February 2019
0

Egypt hosts Palestinian groups, urges calm with Israel

  • Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, led a delegation to meet with Egyptian security officials in Cairo
  • Hamas has been in a bitter rivalry with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank

GAZA: Egypt will hold talks with leaders of two major Palestinian factions to try to salvage faltering unity efforts and to restore calm with Israel, officials said on Sunday.
The head of the Islamist militant group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, led a delegation to meet with Egyptian security officials in Cairo. The leader of a smaller Gaza-based faction, Islamic Jihad, also headed to Cairo, Palestinian officials said.
Hamas has been in a bitter rivalry with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank, for more than a decade. Numerous reconciliation efforts have failed.
Egypt is also trying to prevent an escalation in violence between Hamas and Israel, after months of tension along the Israel-Gaza border. Cairo sent officials to Gaza in recent weeks to keep an eye on the situation.
“Cairo is driven by its interest to avoid a new war in Gaza and in improving the living conditions of Gaza residents,” said one Palestinian official, who asked not to be named.
Relations between Hamas and Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) worsened last month when Abbas ordered his men to leave their posts at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the main corridor for Gazans.
This prompted Cairo, which had in the past year coordinated operations with the PA, to close the crossing.
Gaza officials now say that Egypt has quietly resumed operations at the Rafah crossing over the past week, this time working with Hamas. However, there was no immediate comment on the reopening of Rafah from Egyptian officials.
On Sunday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh passed through the Rafah crossing, along with dozens of other Palestinians.
Two million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, where poverty is rampant and unemployment stands at 50 percent. Israel, together with Egypt, maintains a blockade of the enclave, citing security concerns.
Gaza’s health ministry says more than 220 Palestinians have been killed in the past year by Israeli troops in weekly protests along the border, billed as pressing for an end to the blockade.


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 27 min 3 sec ago
0

Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.