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US wants Gaza ceasefire ‘with or without PA’

August 15, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Israeli forces fire at Palestinian protesters during the Great March of Return in Gaza on 9 August 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

The USA will continue to work for a ceasefire in Gaza “with or without” the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), a spokesperson for the National Security Council has told Haaretz.

The spokesperson explained that the US administration under President Donald Trump “would like to see an end to fighting with or without the PA,” but emphasised that the administration still believes “it would be best if the PA reasserts control in Gaza so we can get on with making lives better,” Haaretz revealed.

The spokesperson added that the US “supports Egypt’s efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza” and “remains in close communication with Israel, Egypt, and the UN with respect to Gaza”.

The announcement will likely be seen as a blow to the PA, which has been marginalised from the Gaza Strip since it lost control of the territory in the 2006 Palestinian elections. Since then, the PA has repeatedly tried to reassert its authority over the enclave. In July, the PA’s Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, told donor countries that any aid to the besieged Strip must first pass through Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The PA’s Labour Minister, Mamoun Abu Shahla, explained that “there is only one government in Palestine. It is the National Agreement Government which was accepted by all parties. It is the sole [government] responsible for working in the Gaza Strip and West Bank”.

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The leader of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmad Sa’adat, in July called on the PA to lift its punitive measures on Gaza and accept the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation. Sa’adat was referring to the PA’s decision to impose a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip in 2017, which included deducting about 50 per cent of Gaza civil servants’ salaries and halting the payments to families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip. Also last month, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to protest the PA’s punitive treatment of the Gaza Strip. The protesters held placards that read “lift the sanctions imposed on Gaza” and “shame on You Abbas”.

The US has been monitoring attempts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The exact details of the negotiations as yet remain unclear, but the UN and Egypt have spoken of a need to improve the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza, stem cross-border hostilities that have flared in recent months and work towards reconciliation between Hamas and Israel. It is also understood that Israel will condition any ceasefire agreement on the return of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 “Operation Protective Edge,” as well as two civilians lost in Gaza.

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It was revealed yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Cairo in May to discuss the ceasefire. Netanyahu reportedly met with the Egyptian Prime Minister, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, to discuss the possibility of easing the ongoing blockade of Gaza by the two countries. Palestinian factions in Gaza have also travelled to Cairo to join the ongoing discussions, representing the first time these groups have travelled to the Egyptian capital to take part in national dialogue discussions since 2012.