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Hamas, Israel agree to simmer tensions

Hamas, Israel agree to simmer tensions
Hamas said the deal will return tensions with Israel to what they were before the recent flare-up. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- The Palestinian militant group Hamas has announced a Qatari-brokered deal has been reached to simmer escalating tensions with Israel.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar's office announced the deal Monday night in a statement saying the agreement will calm tensions following weeks of border conflicts between the two sides.

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"After a round of talks, mediated by the Qatari representative Mohammed al-Emadi, an understanding has been reached to avoid an escalation and stabilize the situation," the statement said.

Following weeks of relative calm due to the coronavirus pandemic, tensions have been ratcheting as incendiary balloons have been launched daily since early August from Gaza into Israel with Jerusalem forces retaliating with strikes against Hamas targets in the Palestinian territory.

In exchange for essentially returning tensions to before the recent flare-up, Sinwar's office said they have been promised several unspecified projects "that will service and alleviate the situation for our people in Gaza, given the coronavirus crisis that has struck us."

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Israel said as part of the deal it will open the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza for cargo and expand Gaza's fishing zone in the Mediterranean to 15 nautical miles from shore.

"This decision will be tested on the ground," the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in a statement. "If Hamas, which is accountable for all actions that are taken in the Gaza Strip, fails to stand by its obligations, Israel will act accordingly."

The deal will also see the resumption of fuel shipments through the border crossing, which Israel stopped amid escalating tensions on Aug. 13.

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Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Palestinian territories, in a statement earlier on Monday called on Hamas to cease launching balloons that would further escalate the situation and on Israel to resume fuel shipments as it was undermining Gaza's critical infrastructure as it battles a coronavirus outbreak.

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The reduction in fuel caused the Gaza Power Plant to cease operation on Aug. 18, and the reduced electricity supply was affecting all Gaza water wells, sewage pumping stations, wastewater treatment plants and some desalination plants, he said, adding there was now "high risk" of sewage flooding populated areas and increased pollution in the Mediterranean Sea.

"The situation is hindering the provision of services in the quarantine facilities and the capacity of the health system to cope with the increased demands, such as the ability to detect new COVID-19 cases," McGoldrick said. "Power outages in hospitals are having serious repercussions, with patients in intensive care, chronic and emergency cases particularly vulnerable."

On Monday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told The Jerusalem Post that Israel would be "happy" to aid Palestine in its fight against COVID-19 in Gaza.

"I hope they will come to their senses and take the security aspect away in order to fight corona, but it's in their hands," he said. "I hope Yahya Sinwar will understand that he's hurting Gaza."

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