Hamas Rejects Five-Year Israel Truce to End Gaza Blockade

A Palestinian fighter from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gestures inside an underground tunnel in Gaza August 18, 2014 Mohammed Salem/REUTERS

Hamas has rejected a proposal that would implement a five-year ceasefire with Israel in return for lifting the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, on the grounds that it would further separate the enclave from the Palestinians of the West Bank, according to a senior Hamas official.

The deal, which is believed to have been formulated by western diplomats such as the Middle East Peace Envoy, Tony Blair, and UN special coordinator for Middle East Peace, Robert Serry, would also have seen Israel allow the opening of an airport and a seaport in the territory.

Senior Hamas official Dr Mousa Abu-Marzouk, in a post on his Facebook page, said the rejection came as it would continue to widen the divide between the two territories, allowing Israel to "swallow it [the West Bank] with the settlements".

"We're paying a steep price for our stance by the continued blockade and economic pressure over the Strip, but we reject any idea that would lead to the separation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, despite the fact that Palestinian president Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and his government are actively doing so with their policies," wrote Marzouk.

He also condemned Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas' policies and urged him to "review his policies towards the Palestinian reconciliation and unity between the West Bank and Gaza Strip".

Daniel Nisman, president at the Tel Aviv-based geopolitical risk consultancy The Levantine Group, said that the refusal by Hamas could be a political play, using the popular idea within Palestinian circles, of reuniting the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, to build support.

"One of the top issues in the Palestinian discourse, the things that Palestinians care about, is the divide," says Nisman. "It's a very popular issue, the issue of rejoining the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and political reconciliation between the two parties."

"So Hamas could be using this rhetoric to say 'We're not going to do this deal with the Israelis because it keeps the status quo where we are all separate'."

Serry presented the deal to Hamas' political elite in Gaza on Monday, in what was his final visit to the enclave as he is soon to step down after seven years as the UN's Middle East peace envoy. He is set to be replaced by the former Bulgarian foreign minister Nikolai Mladenov.

"The rehabilitation of Gaza will take years and for that we need time and a commitment from all concerned parties for a long-term 'reconstruction hudna,' (Arabic term for 'quiet') to which all Palestinian factions should be committed," he said in a statement to mark the end of his trip to Gaza.

After last summer's Gaza conflict, in which over 2,000 Palestinians and 68 Israelis were killed, Israeli and Palestinian factions in the territory - with Egyptian mediation - agreed to a long-term truce with the prospect of indirect negotiations, yet to be initiated.