News Analysis: Easing Israeli restrictions on Gaza defuses potential confrontation

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by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly

GAZA, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Easing the tight Israeli restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip, home of more than 2 million Palestinians, defuses potential confrontations between Israel and militant groups led by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), Palestinian analysts said.

The analysts told Xinhua in several separate interviews that Israel's decision to expand the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip's coast and resuming the commercial traffic at Kerem Shalom, the only commercial crossing point with Gaza, would help achieve stability and calm.

Israel recently announced that it will ease some restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip, including an expansion of the allowed fishing zone.

"On Sunday, it will be possible to bring equipment and goods to Gaza, including materials for projects funded by the international community in the areas of food, water, medicine, and fishing," Ghassan Alian, chief of the Coordination of the Government Activities in the Territories, said in a statement.

Husam al-Dajjani, a political analyst from Gaza, said that the Israeli decision to ease restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip "was part of the mediators' efforts to prevent possible confrontations between Hamas and Israel."

On May 10, Israel waged a large-scale aerial offensive on the Gaza Strip after Hamas and other militant groups fired hundreds of rockets towards Israel. On May 21, Egypt mediated a ceasefire between the two sides that ended the fighting between the two sides.

"Finding a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is necessary for all parties, including the Israeli government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett," al-Dajjani said, adding that expanding the fishing zone and resuming import and export at the Gaza crossing point "defuse potential confrontations."

Asked if the Israeli decision to ease restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip would please Gaza militants, including Hamas, al-Dajjani said that what makes the Palestinian factions satisfied "is the complete lifting of the Israeli blockade that had been imposed on Gaza for 15 years."

Israel has been imposing a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip right after Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007.

Israel tightened the blockade during the 11-day fighting with Hamas-led militant groups, which ended on May 21 and left more than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

Five days ago, Israel restricted the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip coast in response to the launching of incendiary balloons towards Israel on July 25.

"The new Israeli measures of easing restrictions are positive, and the mediators can build on it," al-Dajjani said, adding that "the mediators are trying to make improvements to ease the reality of life in Gaza, which may postpone the chances of any upcoming confrontation."

Talal Oukal, a Gaza-based political analyst, said that the Israeli measures of easing restrictions came at the request of the ceasefire mediators in light of the difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza, which witnesses high rates of poverty and unemployment.

"The delay in the reconstruction process after the last round of fighting in the Gaza Strip rang a bell of danger and worsened the humanitarian situation in the enclave," he said.

Okal believes that Egypt, Qatar, and the United States pressured Israel to make a real initial "breakthrough" in light of having no progress in the issue of reaching a prisoners' swap deal between Hamas and Israel.

He added that the announced Israeli decision to ease restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip "will not satisfy the Palestinian factions because these restrictions were not present before the last round of tension in May."

The Palestinian factions in Gaza demand that Israel abides by previous understandings of the truce reached in 2018, which include expanding the fishing area, starting the implementation of infrastructure projects, and lifting restrictions on the import and export of goods.

They also demand that Israel should allow the entry of the Qatari financial grant for humanitarian support to Gaza's needy families and the entry of construction materials to start the reconstruction process.

However, Israeli media reported that Israel links allowing the entry of construction materials and easing restrictions with the release of four Israelis, held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, the military wing of Hamas, better known as al-Qassam Brigades, announced for the first time that it keeps four Israeli captives, including two soldiers, without specifying their fate. Enditem

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