On Monday, Hamas announced that they had reached a ceasefire with Israel in a Qatar-mediated move to de-escalate violence in the Gaza Strip.
A volunteer in Israel tackles a fire started by one of many incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip, some of which have been fitted to balloons. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP
Details of the agreement, published by the office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, state that a common ground was reached “after a round of discussions and contacts, including with Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi.” Emadi has reportedly been shuttling between Israel and the Gaza Strip for several days in an effort to prevent an all-out military confrontation,
In Israel’s latest escalation, there has been a series of continuous bombings at the Gaza strip almost daily since 6 August, in response to a flew of airborne incendiary devices and rockets fired across the border.
According to the fire brigade, the crudely made firebombs fired by the Palestinians set off 400 blazes and damaged swathes of farmland in southern Israel.
While an Egyptian delegation has reportedly been shuttling between Gaza and Israel in efforts of mediation, the Hamas leader’s announcement made no mention of them. The Egyptian intelligence delegation visited the Gaza Strip 10 days ago, but have not returned to the area since then.
“Understandings have been reached to contain the escalation and halt the Zionist aggression on our people,” Hamas said in its statement. According to Hamas, the new understandings include “a number of projects that serve our people in the Gaza Strip and would help them cope with the outbreak of the coronavirus.”
Israel had imposed a punitive ban on fuel deliveries to the region, and cut electricity supplies to just four hours a day, supplied from the Israeli grid. However, with this new ceasefire, those resources are expected to return soon.
With around 1.85 million people, the Gaza Strip is the third most densely populated region in the world, and has currently recorded 135 covid-19 cases with 3 deaths. Gaza went into a 48-hr lockdown last week after authorities confirmed the first coronavirus cases spread through the community, raising fears of a potentially devastating outbreak in the impoverished Palestinian territory.
However, how long this truce will last cannot be confirmed. Financial aid from gas-rich Qatar has been a major component of a truce first agreed in November 2018 and renewed several times since. Israel had also agreed to take other steps to alleviate unemployment of more than 50% in Gaza, but disagreements over implementation have fuelled repeated flare-ups. How far both sides are willing to go to maintain a semblance of peace during the pandemic crisis still remains to be seen.