Riyadh, Cairo 'pressuring Hamas to stop marches'

Riyadh, Cairo 'pressuring Hamas to stop marches'
Israeli media claims Saudi Arabia and Egypt are pressuring Hamas in exchange for opening the Rafah crossing.
2 min read
09 April, 2018
Palestinian women protesting for their right to return to their homes, now in Israel [AFP]
Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been pressuring Hamas to stop Palestinian protests in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported on Monday.

Riyadh and Cairo have allegedly been in secret talks with Palestinian group Hamas to prevent Gazans from marching to the border with Israel, promising to open the Rafah crossing in return, Israeli intelligence commentator Yussi Melman wrote in Maariv, quoting an anonymous source.

The opening of the crossing, which Egypt controls, could give temporary relief to those in the enclave under siege, depending on what or who will be allowed to enter and/or leave.

A similar report from Maariv's sister publication The Jerusalem Post quoted an anonymous Egyptian foreign ministry official, who added the offered deal had come at the urging of Saudi Arabia.

"The situation in Gaza is nearing an explosion towards anyone blockading [the Strip]," the source said, "and therefore there is a fear that Palestinian anger will turn toward Egypt in the coming weeks."

Al Hayat reported that an Egyptian delegation was being sent to Gaza to meet with Hamas leadership, and one source told the publication that the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Service, General Abbas Kamel, had been tasked by Saudi Arabia to send a team to "neutralise the explosive situation". 

Melman added in his Sunday article that the Israeli army was satisfied with the "success" of the Gaza massacre, after a significant drop in the number of marchers on Friday, compared to the first day of the Great Return March demonstrations on March 30.

Israel killed nine Palestinian civilians, including a journalist, in Friday's march and has been condemned for "deliberately targeting" media workers.  

The total death toll has reached 31 on the Palestinian side, with more than 1,000 injured. No casualties have been reported on the Israeli side.

Melman added an anonymous informant claimed Hamas was paying Palestinians to participate in the Great Return March.

"Hamas pledged to pay between 500 and 3,000 dollars each (for) trying to reach the border fence and get shot by the occupation or martyred," he added, claiming eight explosive devices and a grenade were launched towards the border fence towards Israeli soldiers.

The protest was originally organised by civil society groups, though supported by Hamas.

Israel has accused Great Return March protesters of being armed, but is yet to provide evidence.

The Great Return March remains specifically important to the 1.3 million refugees of the besieged enclave's 1.9 million population, whose families fled to Gaza during the mass expulsion of Palestinians during Israel's establishment in 1948.