Hamas and Israel may be close to a truce even though tensions still run high between the two parties. An Israeli strike killed two Hamas fighters yesterday after the two allegedly opened fired on Israeli soldiers patrolling the border. Despite Israeli attacks on the Gaza last month, an Israeli minister has said that they were holding indirect talks with Hamas. Meanwhile, Israeli and Lebanese media sources have claimed that a truce was close.
Israel apparently wants the truce to remain under wraps as its construction and housing minister, Yoav Galant, played down the issue Monday. He said, "There was no process toward an agreement."
Underlining Egypt's role in solving the prolonged crisis, another Israeli cabinet minister said Cairo bears as much responsibility as Israel. Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin has said: "As far as we are concerned, after the State of Israel left Gaza, responsibility should not be imposed on us. Egypt is no less responsible."
Despite the attempts to trivialize the issue, a number of media outlets claimed that the framework of an agreement has been shaped and that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PLO held a meeting to discuss the agreement Monday.
Hamas officials believe that they have an opportunity to get rid of the blockade. According to Lebanese media, the talks between Israel and Hamas are being held under the mediation of Egypt.
The possible agreement foresees the following: The Rafah border would remain open permanently, and the Israeli blockade would be eased. While in the second stage, Hamas and the PLO would reconcile, and the latter would govern the city; in the case these steps are successfully taken, state officials would be paid by the Palestinian Authority; six months after the reconciliation, elections would be held; moreover, a port would be built in Egypt's Sinai, and Gaza would benefit from it as well; the truce would last five years and include a prisoner exchange; in return, Hamas and its supporters would stop sending burning kites and balloons to the Israeli side.
None of the speculations regarding the truce has been confirmed, and both sides want the negotiations to remain behind closed doors due to their own reservations. Hamas wants to present an agreement as a triumph over Israeli aggression after years of resistance. However, there are concerns that Palestine would be isolated by its international supporters, like Iran, for reaching an agreement with Israel. At the same time, Israel does not want to hold talks openly as it considers Hamas a terror organization. Moreover, the current Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demonized the Palestinian factions, mostly Hamas. The Israeli side does not want to be considered equal to Hamas. For instance, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza in 2005 was called a disengagement, though it was actually a retreat.
Gaza residents have suffered in the blockade with little access to basic needs, like electricity or clean water. There is a growing demand for a solution to this situation.