Egyptian mediation efforts continue as fears of Gaza escalation loom

Saturday’s rockets were “message” from Islamic Jihad about the fate of a hunger striking Palestinian prisoner.

By Baruch Yedid, TPS

“Egypt continues to mediate between Israel and Hamas in light of the understanding that the situation in the Gaza Strip is close to exploding and that Israel and Hamas are closer to another round of violence since Operation Guardian of the Walls ended” in May, a source told TPS Sunday.

Egyptian sources say that Saturday’s launching of two rockets at the Gush Dan area is “a very worrying step,” but added that Hamas has no interest in escalating now.

The rockets were fired by Hamas and exploded in the sea. The IDF hit Hamas targets in response to the attack.

This notion is also reinforced by a source in the Gaza Strip who said that the Islamic Jihad is behind the rocket fire and that the barrage was meant to convey a message on the case of Hashem Abu Hawash, an Islamic Jihad terrorist in Israeli custody who has been on a hunger strike for 138 days. The Islamic Jihad threatened to attack Israel if Abu Hawash dies in its custody.

An Egyptian source emphasized that Hamas has not been able to present any real achievement since Operation Guardian of the Walls, contrary to the abundance of statements and demands it placed on Israel, and this is causing severe unrest both among Gaza’s residents and in Hamas’ military wing.

According to the Egyptian source, the concessions granted by Israel so far are meaningless in Hamas’ eyes, and he added that the Egyptian message to Hamas is that it must be careful not to be dragged into another confrontation.

The Egyptians made it clear to Hamas that “the Israeli government in its current political composition, cannot move towards escalation on the one hand, and cannot advance on a prisoner exchange deal or significant relief on the other, and that Hamas must provide an opportunity for mediation efforts while understanding Israel’s capabilities.”

The Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds website claimed that “Palestinian resistance elements fired two missiles at IDF helicopters last night during the attack on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem stated following the attack that “the attack on several agricultural positions and land in the Gaza Strip, in response to the rocket fire off the shores of Tel Aviv, is another aggression on the part of Israel.”

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Meanwhile, Palestinian sources reported that contacts between the Palestinian Authority and senior Israeli officials have begun to lead to the release of Abu Hawash and that the Palestinian leadership is talking to Arab states to secure his release, fearing that his death will lead to violence in the PA.

The Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein A-Sheikh called on Israel to release the prisoner immediately.