Israel gives Hamas rulers in Gaza 24 hours to implement ceasefire
Israel threatens to reinstate sanctions if commitments are not fulfilled
An Israeli soldier battles a fire started by an incendiary device launched from Gaza Strip, near the Israel and Gaza border fence on Wednesday. Photograph: AP Photo
Israel has given the Hamas rulers in Gaza a 24-hour deadline to implement the latest ceasefire arrangements after renewed clashes along the border on Friday in defiance of the terms of the truce, brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.
“If Hamas will not abide by these commitments, Israel will reinstate sanctions,” said an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The arrangements, which were supposed to have gone into effect on Friday, included an end to the weekly border confrontations following Friday prayers and a cessation of the launching of incendiary balloons from Gaza, which this week sparked more than 100 fires on the Israeli side of the border.
However, at least six more devices landed in Israel on Friday – one rigged with a bomb, according to the Israeli authorities – and the Israeli army claimed that protesters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at troops during demonstrations attended by thousands of Palestinians. More than 50 Palestinians were injured by the Israeli army, including a medic.
Palestinians began launching the aerial incendiary devices more than a year ago during the Great Return March, which saw more than half a million people demonstrating along the border fence demanding an end to the 12-year-long blockade of Gaza.
As part of the latest ceasefire, Israel on Friday morning renewed fuel deliveries to Gaza and again extended the permitted fishing zone for Gaza fishermen to 15 nautical miles.
Israel returned 60 fishing boats that had been confiscated and committed not to shoot at the Friday demonstrators on the border fence, including the use of tear gas.
Human rights groups have accused Israel of using collective punishment against civilians in Gaza by restricting fuel supplies and stopping fishermen setting out to sea.
A Gaza official on Wednesday said that the decision to halt fuel deliveries to Gaza’s sole power plant had significantly exacerbated the existing power shortages in the coastal enclave.
Israeli opposition politicians have accused prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu of failing to respond adequately to what were termed “Hamas provocations”.
“The deal signed last night proves again that Hamas is the one who dictates things to Netanyahu. That is not the way to create deterrence. We need to create deterrence using strong blows,” said the former army chief.
Naftali Bennett, head of the New Right party, said the south is burning while the government is preoccupied with elections.
“The government’s policy not to kill terrorists who launch incendiary balloons endangers lives and undermines deterrence,” he said.