By Gidon Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem Correspondent, The Algemeiner
January 17, 2014 – Recent events have generated concern within Israel’s defense establishment that the ceasefire agreement reached between Jerusalem and Hamas in November 2012 following the IDF’s ‘Pillar of Defense’ operation inside of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is unraveling, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Friday.
Since the beginning of the year, 17 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel, Ma’ariv said. On Thursday, the central Israeli city of Ashkelon was targeted with seven Qassam rockets – the heaviest single day of rocket fire since ‘Pillar of Defense.’ Meanwhile, tinkering with long-range M-75 missiles continues unabated and has even escalated. Furthermore, and in contravention to the informal agreement reached between Israel and Hamas, protests along the Gaza-Israeli border continue to be held every week, according to Ma’ariv.
Israel has no direct contact with Hamas and it is the Egyptians who have acted as mediators. However, ever since President Mohamed Morsi was deposed last year, Cairo’s involvement has decreased dramatically.
Jerusalem continues to demand from the government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that it pressure Hamas to reign in the rogue terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, one of the foundational tenets of the 2012 ceasefire agreement.
However, Egypt claims that its current campaign to close off underground tunnels running from Egypt to Gaza as part of its ongoing war against the Muslim Brotherhood would have to be scaled back if Cairo opened up lines of communication with Hamas, Ma’ariv said. Egypt also asserts that its campaign against the Brotherhood and its ally Hamas ultimately benefits Israel as well.
The tension between Jerusalem and Cairo is evident in Egypt’s strong criticism of Israel’s response to the recent rocket attacks that have been emanating from the Gaza Strip, Ma’ariv said.
According to Egyptian intelligence sources that have contact with Hamas in Gaza, the terrorist group is not interested in an escalation of hostilities with Israel. However, Hamas claims that it cannot enforce its authority over other Gaza-based terrorist groups as Israel is undermining its rule by striking Gaza terror sites in response to the rocket attacks. Hamas’s power has been further eroded by Egypt’s demolition of the tunnels used to smuggle arms into Gaza.
As a result, Hamas has recently turned to Egypt with a request to pressure Israel to ease the entry of banned goods into Gaza, which the terrorist group asserts, was one of the conditions for the 2012 ceasefire agreement, Ma’ariv reports.
In response, Israel has recently agreed to allow construction materials for United Nations projects only into the Gaza Strip.
The reason for Israel’s apparent harsh line is a genuine concern that materials allowed into Gaza could be used to build new tunnels that would be used for terrorist activity against Israel, Ma’ariv reports.
Read other articles by Gidon Ben-Zvi here.