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Escalation in Gaza: Hamas fulfils its pledges, Qatar steps ahead over Egypt

Qatari Ambassador Mohammed El-Amadi (C) is seen with Hamas officials Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Yahya Sinwar (R) in Gaza on 24 January 2019 [Mohamed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Qatari Ambassador Mohammed Al-Emadi (C) is seen with Hamas officials Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Yahya Sinwar (R) in Gaza on 24 January 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Following the latest round of Israeli escalation against the Palestinians in Gaza, lasting several weeks, Palestinians have sought their legitimate right to a decent quality of life, without unnecessary turmoil.

Ensuing the events, Hamas was forced to resort to violence, following the intransigence of the Israeli occupation to respond to Egyptian, Qatari and international mediators.

The Palestinians expect this step to yield better results compared to the last escalation period. Palestinians have the right to a peaceful existence, since they have endured profound suffering. But, the Palestinians trust the leadership of the resistance. Perhaps the tension would have taken other paths if the coronavirus pandemic had not spread to Gaza. It would have been impossible for Hamas to fight two battles simultaneously: the coronavirus in Gaza and the Israeli occupation abroad.

It is unlikely to pass through this stage without the Israeli occupation leaders endorsing their statements, retracting their threats and being compelled to respond to the demands of the Palestinians, because they may fear balloons and not rockets. This is a vital factor when it comes to fighting the occupation.

Moreover, it is now known that in the context of asymmetrical confrontations between resistance movements and regular armies, there is no room to defeat the enemy with a “knockout”, but rather by scoring points from one round to another. That is what Hamas has achieved, and the result may be seen with accumulation.

READ: Who won Gaza’s battle of the incendiary balloons, Israel or the resistance? 

Many Israeli positions have emerged in recent hours condemning the cessation of the escalation in Gaza. They consider what happened as an Israeli retreat vis-à-vis the resistance, and a regression for all the threats launched by the military and security institutions against Gaza, especially the claim of not responding to any request before the closure of the missing soldiers’ file, which has not been achieved on the ground.

During this round, Hamas presented its demands through mediators, and did nothing but use them as tools for its popular resistance. The “nuclear” state of occupation was forced to surrender to the Palestinians. Indeed, it did not respond to all demands, but Hamas broke the veto that the occupying power had imposed on it, according to the testimony of the enemies, friends and mediators.

In the same context, Qatar succeeded in concluding a truce agreement between Hamas and Israel to end all tension, including a halt to the launching of incendiary balloons. In return, Qatar must continue to provide economic and relief assistance to the Palestinians. Thus, this fact highlighted the outstanding role of Qatar, at the highest level, in containing the escalation.

In return, Egypt withdrew early from its mediation efforts – unlike previous periods in which the Egyptian mediator was directly responsible for the truce negotiations – while Qatar’s role at the time was limited to financing what had been agreed upon.

108,000 Gaza families to benefit from Qatar funds transfer, Gaza on 13 May 2019 [Mohammed Asad – Middle East Monitor]

What occurred was that the Egyptian mediator conveyed his willingness at the beginning of the escalation to assume the role of mediation between Hamas and Israel. So, the delegation passed on the demands of the movement that Israel did not accept. This prompted Egyptians to withdraw, while Qatar assumed the negotiations, resulting in the conclusion of a truce agreement that met the demands of the factions, without any human cost or political negotiation.

Qatar has shown remarkable interest in recent days, given the success of de-escalation efforts, which seemed to be more evident than previous rounds of intensification. Ambassador Mohammad Al-Emadi did not leave the Gaza Strip during the escalation period, and his negotiations took place directly with Hamas leaders. Additionally, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammad Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani called Head of the movement’s political bureau Ismail Haniyeh a few hours before the announcement of the truce agreement. This provided the Qatari mediation with a political dimension.

Information provided to MEMO disclosed that: “Since the early hours of the escalation, the Egyptian intelligence services presented Hamas’ plans to restore calm to Gaza without leading to a military confrontation, given that the political situation, according to the Egyptian viewpoint, will not be in the interest of the movement.” This presented Hamas with the impression that it is facing a threatening message, and not mediation. Therefore, the Egyptians failed in their efforts to persuade the movement to accept a settlement meeting its demands.

READ: Palestine is no longer a priority for the UAE and other Arab states 

Egypt did not issue guarantees or promises to pressure Israel to abide by the factions’ conditions for the truce, unlike Qatar, who played this role efficiently, by funding the necessary humanitarian and relief projects.

Qatar has close ties with the Palestinian factions in Gaza. It has also provided financial aid since 2012 and has implemented dozens of major projects inside the Gaza Strip. On the political level, it hosts Hamas offices located abroad on its territory, and it regularly holds meetings with Qatari officials, particularly Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The recent escalation events conveyed that Qatar has benefited from its strong links with the Palestinian factions in Gaza, specifically Hamas. This position developed over time and has become a mutual trust between the two parties. Hamas did not obstruct Qatari efforts to calm the parties’ differences, so as not to lose them as a strategic ally in the future.

Israel must consider the presence of more than one party and the many mediators on the Gaza front. Qatar may be at the forefront of these countries, thanks to its active diplomacy and generous funding. Egypt, however, comes in second place, and this division is due to the fact that each party possesses the necessary negotiating tools. Qatar is able to finance the necessary projects in the Gaza Strip to maintain the calm and prevent any future confrontation between Hamas and Israel. As for Egypt, despite the geopolitics, its presence has diminished considerably in recent times.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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