Hamas says Israel move to tighten blockade will increase tensions

Israel says it has cancelled an easing of restrictions on the besieged Gaza Strip after rockets fired from territory.

gaza beach
The attack came a few hours after the Israeli army announced, on Saturday evening, that two rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards adjacent settlements [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Israel’s move to tighten the blockade on the Gaza Strip, including reimposing restrictions on Palestinian fishing, will “increase tensions”, a spokesman for Hamas, the group that governs the enclave, has said.

“The Israeli measures of reducing the fishing zone and cancelling permits of businessmen aims at tightening the siege and will increase tensions,” Hazem Qassem told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

His remarks came hours after Israel announced it would cancel a slight easing of the siege on Gaza, saying the move was in response to the launch of two rockets from the strip. No injuries were reported and no Palestinian factions in Gaza claimed responsibility.

Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli military said it launched a series of air raids targeting Hamas sites in Gaza. 

Palestinian sources said Israeli aircraft targeted a Hamas site in central Gaza overnight. There were no reports of casualties.

The decision to cancel the slight easing of the enclave’s airtight land, sea and air blockade, which has been in place for more than a decade, also included the scrapping of the restoration of 500 commercial permits and the delivery of cement, according to COGAT, an Israeli military unit that is responsible for civilian matters in the occupied territories. 

‘Harsh response’

Earlier this week, Israeli security officials warned of a “harsh military response” if attacks from the Gaza Strip did not stop.

At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We won’t accept any aggression from Gaza. Just a few weeks ago, we took out the top commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and I suggest that Islamic Jihad and Hamas refresh their memories.”

Commenting on Netanyahu’s comments, Qassem said: “These threats are endless. Hamas is not interested in any escalation, but if it would happen, [Hamas] will defend its people in the face of any Israeli aggression.”

The near-daily exchange of attacks between both Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza has continued since US President Donald Trump announced his so-called Middle East plan last month. 

Growing strawberries in the Gaza Strip

The Palestinians have roundly rejected Trump’s proposal, which offers them limited self-rule in scattered chunks of territory with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem while allowing Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank.

Since 2008, Israel has waged three wars on the Gaza Strip,  killing thousands of people, mostly Palestinian civilians.

Israel has long held Hamas responsible for violence from Gaza, while Hamas says Israel is responsible for the state of anger and pressure inflicted on Gaza’s residents because of the continued siege.

In recent years, Hamas has gradually shaped informal understandings with Israel, in an attempt to ease the blockade imposed on Gaza by Egypt and Israel for more than 12 years.

Fragile ceasefire agreements are usually brokered by neighbouring Egypt and the United Nations. 

Human rights groups and critics consider the blockade as collective punishment of two million people, warning of its impact on humanitarian conditions in Gaza.

Additional reporting by Maram Humaid

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies