Hamas, the Palestinian group running the besieged Gaza Strip, has announced it has reached a Qatari-mediated deal to end the latest escalation of violence with Israel.
After talks with Qatari envoy Mohammed el-Emadi, “an understanding was reached to rein in the latest escalation and end [Israeli] aggression against our people”, the office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said on Monday.
There was no immediate comment by Israel.
The Israeli army has carried out attacks on Gaza almost daily since August 6 in what it says is a response to the airborne incendiary devices and, less frequently, rockets launched into southern Israel.
The fire balloons are widely seen as an attempt by Hamas to improve the terms of an informal truce under which Israel committed to easing its 13-year-old crippling blockade in return for calm.
But so far, Israel’s response has been to tighten the blockade.
It has banned Gaza fishermen from going to sea and closed its goods crossing with the territory, prompting the closure of the Palestinian territory’s sole power plant for want of fuel.
What Hamas says about the agreement is that it will stop incendiary balloon launches as well as what it calls its night-time confusion operations where groups go along the fence and throw explosives and cause disruption,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem.
“In return, it says that Israel is undertaking to go back to the pre-escalation situation which means allowing fishermen out into the Mediterranean, easing the restriction on goods coming in and also presumably the restoration of fuel supplies to Gaza’s only power station.”
Monday’s announcement came amid a flurry diplomatic activity from Qatar whose envoy delivered the latest tranche of $30m in aid Gaza before holding talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.
Sources close to the Qatari delegation said the Israelis told al-Emadi they were willing to resume fuel deliveries for the power plant and ease their blockade – if there was an end to the fire balloons.
Financial aid for the impoverished territory from gas-rich Qatar has been a major component of the latest truce first agreed in November 2018 and renewed several times since.
Mediation efforts have grown more urgent in recent days as authorities in Gaza have detected the first cases of local transmission of the coronavirus. Hamas has imposed a lockdown in the coastal enclave, which is home to two million Palestinians.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from expanding its arsenal, but critics view it as a form of collective punishment.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and several smaller battles since the closure was imposed.
The restrictions have pushed Gaza’s economy to the brink of collapse, leaving more than half the population unemployed, and years of war and isolation have left the healthcare system ill-equipped to cope with a major outbreak.