Hamas claimed on Monday that it was Israel who had “begged” for last week’s ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
The claim came in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement to the effect that Hamas rulers “begged for a ceasefire and they know why.” Netanyahu made his statement at a memorial service last week for Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion.
Husam Badran, member of the Hamas “political bureau,” was quoted as saying that Israel “knows that it can start a war, but that it’s impossible to end it. That’s why Israel begged for a ceasefire through mediators.”
Badran told the Arabi 21 news source that Hamas was not asked to “pay a political price” for any understandings with Israel regarding a long-term truce. Such understandings, he added, will not impose any restrictions on the Palestinian “resistance.”
The Hamas official claimed that the recent understandings were reached thanks to the weekly protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
According to various reports, Egypt, Qatar and the UN recently succeeded in reaching undeclared understandings between Israel and Hamas – on the basis of “calm for calm” in the Gaza Strip.
Badran also dismissed charges that these understandings were part of US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, which is also known as the “deal of the century.”
The PA and its ruling Fatah faction have accused Hamas of being in “collusion” with Israel and the US administration to implement the unseen peace plan, which they claim is aimed at separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.
“Linking these understandings to the ‘deal of the century’ is a lie spread and believed by some,” Badran said. “Hamas is not the one that has been making concessions.”
He also claimed that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned “after he failed to destroy the Palestinian resistance, especially in wake of the last botched failed military and intelligence operation in the Gaza Strip.” He was referring to last week’s clash between an elite IDF unit and Hamas terrorists near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Referring to unconfirmed reports that progress had been made toward striking a prisoner exchange agreement between Hamas and Israel, Badran said that such an issue requires a decision from Netanyahu. “Apparently, Netanyahu’s political and internal considerations are delaying this issue,” he said. Hamas, he added, was opposed to attempts made to link the proposed prisoner exchange to lifting the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip. “These are two separate issues,” he explained.
Another senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Haya, denied the reports about an impending prisoner exchange with Israel. Israel, he said, has not taken any real steps toward striking a prisoner swap agreement. He said that Hamas will not make any deal unless Israel releases all the former Palestinian prisoners who were arrested again after being released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.
Nafez Azzam, a senior Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, said on Monday that his group will remain committed to the latest ceasefire as long as Israel abides by it. The Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, he added, “don’t want to go to war at this stage.”