Hamas Claim Complicates Talk of Truce With Israel

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

Correction Appended

GAZA -- Confusion continued Saturday over the status of cease-fire talks Egypt is conducting between Hamas and Israel, as the Hamas prime minister announced progress regarding restrictions on the movements of fishermen and farmers in the border area, which the Israeli prime minister's office denied.

One day after Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian and wounded nine others as they approached the fence on Gaza's eastern border, some Gaza fishermen said they had ventured past the three-nautical-mile limit, long imposed by Israel, without provoking an Israeli response. The fishermen's gambit followed an announcement by the office of the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, that the Egyptian intelligence service, which brokered the initial cease-fire deal announced in Cairo last week, told him the limit had been extended to six nautical miles.

But Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, said Saturday that "nothing has changed on the ground or at sea until it is agreed to by Israel and Egypt." He declined to discuss whether a meeting had been set for Monday, as the Hamas statement said, on the question of Palestinian movements in the so-called buffer zone, the 1,000-foot strip of land on Gaza's northern and eastern borders where the shooting broke out on Friday.

"The arrangements negotiated with Egypt led to an immediate cessation of hostile activities," Mr. Regev said. "All other factors will be negotiated in an expeditious manner directly with the Egyptians."

The mixed messages raised the question of whether Hamas might be trying to provoke the Israelis to break the cease-fire, or perhaps to establish new facts on the ground -- farmers tilling the borderland, fishermen fishing farther out -- that would increase its leverage in negotiations.

"Hamas is definitely trying to score points here," said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University in Gaza City. "Hamas is trying to say that the cease-fire is in the interest of Hamas and is in the interest of the Palestinians, that the cease-fire agreement is going to gradually put an end to the siege."

Mr. Abusada noted that Mahmoud Zahar, a high-ranking Hamas leader, had told Arab-speaking reporters at a news conference that Gaza militants had shot down seven Israeli aircraft during the eight-day conflict, something Mr. Abusada called "a big lie."

"We know this didn't happen, so this is part of raising morale, part of playing with the emotions of Palestinians," Mr. Abusada said, suggesting that the Hamas statement on fishermen and border zones had a similar purpose. "It's like waging psychological warfare on Israel, that Israel is giving in to the Palestinians, and also on the Palestinian side that Hamas won this war on all levels."

Nizar Ayyash, the leader of the Gaza fishermen's syndicate, said that after the Hamas statement, seven or eight large boats sailed out six miles into the sea on Saturday, encountering no resistance from Israeli gunboats that patrol the waters. Mr. Ayyash said that even six miles out, the sea is too sandy, and that during sardine season, the best catch was about 15 nautical miles from the coast. "Any mile we gain is our right," he added.

With Egypt erupting in turmoil over a decree issued Thursday by President Mohamed Morsi granting himself broad powers unchecked by judicial review, the prospects for further negotiations on the buffer zone, fishing and the expansion of Gaza's border crossings for people and goods are also unclear.

"Morsi is definitely preoccupied with internal Egyptian problems. He is definitely overwhelmed," Mr. Abusada said. "That's where the Egyptian intelligence role comes back. The Egyptian intelligence service is the Egyptian side who has been intervening and coordinating."

Fares Akram contributed reporting.

Correction: November 24, 2012, Saturday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the leader of the Gaza fishermen's syndicate. It is Nizar Ayyash, not Ayyesh.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here