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Israeli Gaza operation threatens to derail truce efforts

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Palestinians inspect the remains of a vehicle that was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip November 12, 2018. ©REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

At least seven Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in an exchange of gunfire acorss the Gaza Strip over the weekend.


Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, said that a commander in its military wing was amongst those killed.

Sunday's events come after a period of calm that started with a ceasefire on October 27th, stopping a seven-month cycle of violence in Gaza.

“The Israelis have violated that agreement in a way that makes people believe that they will never respect any agreement ever again,” said Mustafa Barghouti, the leader of the Palestinian National Initiative (the largely secular 'third force' in Palestinian politics after Fatah and Hamas), in an interview with RFI.

Divide and rule?

Accordeing to opinion polls a majority of Israelis support truce talks with Hamas. However, according to Ely Karmon, a security analyst at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, “this Israeli government is interested in having a long quiet period with Hamas, and there is no interest in destroying Hamas’ military capabilities.”

Doing so “would in some scenarios allow the Palestinian Authority [controlled by Fatah, Hamas’ political rival] to return and take control of the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli government thinks that the split between the two Palestinian territories plays better strategically than having them united”, Karmon told RFI.

Netanyahu plan ‘to liquidate the Palestinian nation’

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached out to Hamas over recent weeks by allowing Qatar to transfer cash to Gaza. However, Netanyahu has also been reaching out to Arab States over recent months, for example, talking about the "intimacy and friendship" between the two in a speech to the UN in September.

“Israel is looking to see if, in the long term, there is a possibility that the Gulf countries and Egypt would accept another solution which would neutralize Hamas,” said Karmon.

There are some signs that Arab states want to normalise relations with Israel. For example, Saudi Crown Prince said earlier this year that Israelis have the right to live "on their own land", while the foreign ministers of Oman and Bahrain have said that Israel should be treated like any other country.

“Netanyahu – along with US President Donald Trump – has only one plan, which is to liquidate the Palestinian nation and destroy any potential for a two state solution,” said Barghouti.

“In this regard, he thinks he can normalise relations with Arab states at the expense of the Palestinian people, and – in my opinion – this is an illusion,” he concluded.