LEADERS of Hamas and Islamic Jihad put on a display of reconciliation on Saturday, after senior Hamas members were twice barred from a mourning tent for a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist whose killing by Israel set off two days of fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh visited the mourning tent for Baha Abu al-Ata, and was warmly received and photographed along with Islamic Jihad’s Gaza leader Khaled al-Batsh and Abu al-Ata’s father.
The show of harmony came a day after Palestinians affiliated with Islamic Jihad accosted Hamas officials Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ahmed Bahar as they tried to visit the mourning tent for Abu al-Ata, who was killed last Tuesday in an Israeli air strike.
The mourners were apparently angry after the Gaza-ruling terror group did not take part in the Tuesday-Wednesday flare-up between Israel and Islamic Jihad, during which Islamic Jihad fired some 450 rockets into Israel. Islamic Jihad members yelled “out, Hamas out,” and threw stones at the Hamas leaders’ vehicle.
On Saturday, Batsh, seated alongside Zahar, spoke out against what had happened. “The unfortunate incident regarding the way our warrior brother … Zahar was received harms Islamic Jihad and Hamas equally. The demagogic behaviour is not acceptable to us,” he said.
“We promise that we will remain united in our war against Israel and those who assist her.”
Hebrew media reports Saturday said members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad military wings also held talks, and planned further attacks against Israeli targets.
In what some military sources said was a move by Hamas to demonstrate it remains committed to military confrontation with Israel, two rockets were fired from Gaza at Beersheba at around 2am on Saturday.
Channel 12 and Channel 13 news both reported, however, that while the rockets were likely fired by Hamas operatives, this was probably done without the approval of the Hamas leadership. Israel hit back at Hamas targets after the rocket fire, but the strikes were relatively mild, the TV news reports noted, reflecting Israel’s ongoing desire to avoid a major conflict with Hamas.
The military sources quoted in the TV reports said further intermittent rocket fire from Gaza could not be ruled out, but that there is an assessment that Hamas’s decision to stay out of the conflict on Tuesday and Wednesday offers a possibility of negotiations on a longer-term truce. There was no official confirmation of these reports.
Notably in this context, there were no protests last Friday on the Gaza border, marking only the second time since the so-called March of Return protests and riots began in March 2018 that no weekly demonstrations took place. Hamas largely controls these protests.
During last week’s clashes Palestinian sources said 34 Gazans were killed. Israel said 25 of the fatalities were terrorists.
Fifty-eight Israelis were lightly and moderately injured or treated for anxiety. Among the Israeli buildings hit by a rocket from Gaza was an assisted living facility for the elderly in Ashkelon. The ceiling was destroyed and a number of rooms suffered damage.
MDA crews who arrived at the scene treated one person who sustained injuries in the attack.