The political leadership of the Islamist Hamas held a meeting with the organization’s military wing to discuss their battle preparedness. The meeting came after Israel’s Security Cabinet concluded a meeting on Sunday that voiced pessimism of any possible breakthrough for a long-lasting ceasefire. Instead, the Israeli Security Cabinet released a statement that emphasized the IDF’s preparedness “for any scenario” vis a vis the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Israeli Minister Ze’ev Elkin – who is a member of the Security Cabinet – stressed during a televised interview that “Egypt, (which is actively attempting to broker a ceasefire between Gaza and Israel), bears as much responsibility for the Gaza Strip as Israel does.” “Egypt understands that it cannot shrug off Gaza. As far as we are concerned, after the State of Israel left Gaza, responsibility should not be imposed on us. Egypt is no less responsible,” Israeli Cabinet Minister Ze’ev Elkin said.
Israel withdrew troops and civilian settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005, when (at the time) the Palestinian enclave was under the control of the Palestinian Authority. After a brief civil war between the Islamist Hamas and the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah factions, Hamas asserted its control over the densely populated territory. The violent takeover by Hamas, which openly declares its aspiration to bring about Israel’s destruction, led to an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, while Egypt enforced a blocked of its own, as Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – an organization outlawed by Cairo. Nevertheless, Egypt seeks to alleviate tensions between Hamas and Israel, viewing a long-term ceasefire as an interest for its own state security. That is why, in parallel to U.N. mediation, Egypt has used its contacts with both Israel and Hamas to discuss ways of calming a more than three-month surge in confrontations along the Gaza-Israel border. That said, some Egyptian officials emphasized that they would resist any attempt by Israel, or Washington, to shift to Cairo the burden for addressing Gaza’s long-term governance or economic problems – a position resented by Jerusalem, which believes the responsibility of Gaza’s humanitarian problems is an internal challenge of the Arab world.
“We left Gaza. If someone strikes at us from Gaza, they will get hit back. Let the Arab world resolve the internal, humanitarian problem of the Gaza Strip. Why should we bear responsibility for this?” Israeli Cabinet Minister Ze’ev Elkin said.
An Israeli official close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on whether Elkin’s comments reflect Israel’s government policy, while the Egyptian government did not immediately respond to TV7’s request for comment.