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PA threatens to cut security ties with Israel if Gaza blockade lifted

May 25, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Palestinians stage a demonstration demanding the lift of the blockade in Gaza on 1 April 2018 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has threatened to sever security cooperation with Israel if the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, according to the Palestine Information Centre.

Quoting Hebrew media sources, the news site reported that the PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj sent a letter to his Israeli counterpart Nadav Argaman warning him against any action that would help alleviate the suffering of the population in Gaza.

The warning allegedly came after reports surfaced that Egypt and Qatar would help mediate a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas that would relax the blockade, now in its eleventh year.

Such a plan is thought to be detrimental to the interests of the PA, which seeks to pressure Hamas into handing over control of the Strip, following failed reconciliation talks at the end of last year.

A possible deal, according to Israeli media, would see Tel Aviv demand a complete cessation of rocket fire and tunnel building, in addition to respecting the security perimeter at the Gaza border and a solution regarding the Israeli prisoners of war held in Gaza.

In return, Israel will substantially reduce restrictions at Gaza’s border crossings, including permitting the entry of goods and services to the impoverished enclave, on the condition that they will not be used to boost Hamas’ armed wing. Egypt will also lessen restrictions at its Rafah crossing with Gaza and open the border more frequently.

Read: PA intercepts 40% of resistance attacks against Israel

Talks between the Palestinian factions have stalled in recent months. Although Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Cairo in October in an attempt to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in Gaza, they failed to make progress in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Relations declined further following the attempted assassination of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during a trip to Gaza in March for which the PA blamed Hamas, who in turn denied any involvement. The three men identified by Hamas as suspects involved in the bombing were later killed in a shootout with its forces in Gaza on 22 March.

Earlier this month, the PA cut salaries of its civil servants in the Strip by a further 20 per cent, causing widespread protest. An issue of longstanding contention, last year Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slashed Gaza salaries by 30 per cent. He has also reduced PA staff numbers in Gaza from 60,000 last year, by ordering early retirement for nearly a third of employees.

PA officials said at time that those moves were meant to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza. However, following news that Palestinian prisoners were also facing cuts in their remittances, the PA blamed the hold-up on technical issues.

Read: Hamas blames Palestinian Authority men for PM assassination attempt