Hamas, Israel agree to cease-fire over border violence

A police officer speaks with men riding an auto rickshaw after Palestinian militant groups and Israel agreed to end an escalation of unrest along the Israel-Gaza border, in Gaza. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 September 2020

Hamas, Israel agree to cease-fire over border violence

  • Truce will allow the two sides to focus on tackling COVID-19 outbreak

GAZA CITY: Hamas and Israel on Tuesday agreed to a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip following three weeks of border violence.

The sides committed to implementing the terms of a truce brokered by Egypt, Qatar, and the UN in October 2018.

Observers said the agreement would allow Israel to switch its focus to fighting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the country where 117,241 cases had so far been recorded.

In a statement issued immediately after the cease-fire was announced, the head of Hamas’ political office in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said the agreement would contribute to “containing escalation and stopping the Israeli aggression” on Gaza.

Hamas added that a number of projects aimed at alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Gaza would soon be announced.

Following the truce agreement, Israel reopened the only commercial crossing through which goods and fuel can pass to the enclave at Kerem Shalom, after restrictions had been imposed three weeks ago stopping fuel supplies, which resulted in power cuts throughout Gaza.

The Israelis also allowed the resumption of fishing for a distance of 15 nautical miles (28 km) out to sea.

Factions in Gaza agreed to stop launching rockets and incendiary balloons into Israeli communities, and to end night protests.

Hamas officials were understood to have been mainly calling for a return to the terms of the 2018 accord and the suspension of Great Return March activities. At the time, the understandings included vital projects funded by Qatar in relation to resolving Gaza’s long-running electricity supply crisis, the opening of an industrial zone at the Erez border crossing, the creation of job opportunities, and the easing of restrictions on exports and imports.

Hamas’ political bureau member, Osama Hamdan, said: “The resistance is in scoring stage, and it has not come out of this confrontation losing, and what it has achieved is appropriate in the context of the continuation of the confrontation that aims to completely break the siege.

“The leadership of the resistance factions was interested in achieving an agreement that would allow our people to confront the (COVID-19) pandemic, and that the occupation would not benefit from this crisis to put pressure on our people.”

Adnan Abu Amer, a columnist specializing in Israeli affairs, said that the agreement had been a point-scoring exercise for both sides but a victory for neither.

He added that Hamas was faced with deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions in Gaza and the deal would allow vital projects to go ahead while giving Israel peace of mind over the threat of border attacks.

Amer noted that the COVID-19 outbreak in Gaza had heaped further pressure on Hamas.

However, journalist Fathi Sabah, felt that the agreement had achieved nothing for Hamas and Gaza and only carried “promises” to implement projects that had already been agreed on, but Israel had refused to implement since 2018.

Sabah told Arab News: “Hamas found itself obliged to respond to the efforts to calm down, as it is more aware than others that the situation in Gaza does not allow things to deteriorate into a war, as 2 million Palestinians are in exhausted conditions, and the (COVID-19) pandemic has made the situation worse.”

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 21 September 2020

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.