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Hamas Denies Existence of Plan to Relinquish Control of Gaza Amid Humanitarian Crisis

Report said that the Gaza group's armed wing wants to drop control of Gaza, handing border control over to terror groups, to pressure Abbas and the international community

Hamas denied reports that its military wing has presented a plan that effectively would create a power vacuum in Gaza with the aim of pressuring the Palestinian Authority and the international community to solve the enclave’s humanitarian crisis.

According to a Thursday report in the Al-Aqsa television station run by Hamas, the plan includes four points whose implementation could lead to a direct confrontation with Israel.

According to the plan, Hamas would relinquish day-to-day control of civil affairs in the Gaza Strip. The police would do their routine work with the assistance of the security forces. The military wing and other factions such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees would be responsible for security along the border with Israel.

However, on Friday morning, Salah Bardawil, a member of the group's politburo, denied the report, saying that the group's political leadership has received no such proposal and had certainly not reached such a decision. He labeled the report a rumor being spread by those concerned by the situation in Gaza.

A Hamas source close to the political wing who spoke with Haaretz on Thursday said he doubted whether the organization was ready to relinquish control over the Gaza Strip. He called the television report a trial balloon meant to test reactions in Palestinian politics and among international organizations that operate in Gaza.

For several months the Palestinian Authority has been limiting funding for the Gaza Strip. This has been evident in the cutting of salaries for PA employees in Gaza and the retiring of thousands of others.

Payments for electricity provided by Israel have also been slashed, along with permits for Gazans needing to go to Israel or the West Bank for medical treatment.

Last week Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that these cuts would continue until Hamas gave up control over Gaza and dissolved the committee functioning as a de facto government. Some analysts say that the next step will be cuts to schools and other public institutions.

Hamas has assailed Abbas, claiming that these cuts are unacceptable tactics targeting civilians. The group has said that the committee will continue to function.

Hamas has launched talks with Egypt as a result of this pressure, as well as with former senior Fatah member Mohammed Dahlan. The goal is to find ways to ease the suffering of civilians, especially with a view to opening the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt and resolving the crisis in electricity supplies. So far no results are evident.

Hamas is also trying to open a new page with Tehran; last week a delegation visited Iran to hold meetings with senior officials including leaders of the Revolutionary Guard. Only members of Hamas’ political wing took part.

The group realizes that Iran cannot solve the humanitarian crisis because it is too far away. Thus Egypt will be the dominant player in any move to ease the suffering of Gazans.

In the Strip, the severe electricity shortage has left residents with as little as four hours of power a day in the sweltering summer heat, raising humanitarian concerns.

For several years, Gazans received roughly eight hours a day, and many rely on gasoline-fueled generators.

Jack Khoury

Haaretz Correspondent

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/1.806242

Hamas Denies Existence of Plan to Relinquish Control of Gaza Amid Humanitarian Crisis

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police




The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives.

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