- Renewed Hamas demands deepen fears that group seeking to establish "Hezbollah model" in post-conflict Gaza Strip
Top Hamas figure Yehya Musa on Tuesday told Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that they should prepare for a "long battle" with Israel, the latest signal that Cario-based negotiations aimed at establishing a truce between Israel and the terror group may be faltering. Hamas has reportedly doubled down [Hebrew] on a range of demands, most controversially the organization's insistence that the international community provide a seaport that would undermine Israeli and Egyptian efforts at limiting what kind of materials Hamas had access to. Veteran Arab Affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff conveyed comments from Azzam Al-Ahmad, the head of the Palestinian delegation negotiating in Cairo, calling on the Israelis to make such concessions because the Palestinian Authority (PA) - and not Hamas - will soon be in control of the Gaza Stirp. Al-Ahmad's exact language was that "the period of Hamas rule in Gaza is over." Issacharoff drily noted that "Al-Ahmad... did not clarify how the PA would reassert its rule in Gaza seven years after Hamas violently ousted it, nor did he specify whether or how Hamas would be disarmed." The concern is a gesture toward long-standing and now-reemerging worries that the U.S. and EU-designated terror organziation may succeed in establishing a so-called "Hezbollah model" in the Gaza Strip, under which the PA would gain formal control over the territory while Hamas's still-intact military infrastructure would provide it with actual control. The result would deny Ramallah sovereignty over areas it reserves for a future Palestinian state and allow Hamas - either on its own accord or at the behest of international backers such as Iran or Turkey - to trigger military conflicts functionally at will. Such a scenario would also circumscribe Israeli self-defense measures, inasmuch as military action by Jerusalem would potentially be criticized as targeting PA rather than Hamas infrastructure. Fears that a "Hezbollah model" might take hold are crucial to Israel's demand that the reestablishment of the Palestinian Authority rule in Gaza be coupled with robust efforts aimed at demilitarizing Hamas.
Wisam was born in northern Iraq 17 months ago with life-threatening congenital heart disease. His family is one of 200,000 adherents of the Yazidi faith who have escaped to the mountains near their hometown of Sinjar under persecution by the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda terrorist group offshoot formerly known as ISIS. Despite the tragedy playing out at home, Wisam’s father accepted an invitation to bring the toddler to Israel for free life-saving treatment at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon through the Israeli humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart (SACH). The father and son arrived in June, and Wisam’s surgery was performed on July 10 by Dr. Lior Sasson. Earlier this summer, SACH doctors performed free heart surgery on five ailing Palestinian children and admitted gravely ill children from the West Bank and from Gaza. A free weekly cardiology clinic for Palestinian children has continued to stay open even as Holon, along with the entire Tel Aviv area, has frequently endured air-raid sirens due to missile launches from Gaza. About half the children admitted to Wolfson through SACH for free treatment come from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq and Morocco. A SACH spokeswoman said that Wisam’s father is staying at his recovering son’s bedside as he desperately waits to hear news about his wife and newborn twins. (via Israel21c)
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