GAZA (Reuters) - Israel and the Islamist group Hamas have no desire to go to war despite an uptick in violence, the Qatari envoy who helped mediate a truce between the sides along the volatile Gaza border, said on Saturday.
“Both sides are committed (to the truce) and they have no war intentions at all,” Mohammed Al-Emadi told Reuters on a visit to Gaza after a series of border confrontations in which Israel says it has killed at least eight Palestinian militants who tried to infiltrate its territory.
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel over the past decade and tensions along the Gaza border are high with frequent fatalities.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces a Sept. 17 election, has been accused in recent weeks by his rivals of not doing enough to tackle Hamas.
In two days of heavy fighting in early May, projectiles from Gaza killed four civilians in Israel, local health officials said, and Israeli strikes killed 21 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, according to Gaza health authorities.
A ceasefire mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations ended that round of violence.
Israel pulled its troops and settlers from the coastal enclave in 2005 but keeps the territory under a naval blockade, citing security concerns.
Israel and Egypt, which also shares a border with Gaza, both keep tight control of their land crossings with the strip.
Some two million Palestinians live in Gaza. The Israeli-Egyptian blockade has brought the Gazan economy to the brink of collapse. Recent foreign aid cuts and sanctions by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’s rival in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, have worsened the situation.
“Both sides have no war intentions but there is a lack of money and the humanitarian situation is bad,” said Emadi. “Should people feel financially at ease, the ghost of war will be totally removed,” said Emadi.
Qatar has in recent years stepped funneled more than one billion dollars into relief projects in Gaza, where poverty and unemployment rates are high. Emadi said Israel consented to his country’s relief work in Gaza.
In June, Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh said a new hospital, industrial zones and a new power line would be built in Gaza as part of a wide truce agreement with Israel.
The deal, brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, has not been publicly acknowledged by Israel, which deems Hamas a terrorist organization and shuns direct negotiations. Emadi said the hospital’s construction could begin soon.
Editing by Maayan Lubell