TEL AVIV – Among its conditions for a long-term cease-fire, Hamas is demanding its own corridor to the Mediterranean Sea as well as the reconstruction of an airport in the Rafah region of the Gaza Strip, according to Egyptian diplomatic sources.
Egypt is currently serving as a mediator between Israel and Hamas over Israel’s military campaign aimed at minimizing Hamas’ rocket infrastructure.
The new conditions for an airport and sea access likely will be nonstarters for Israel, which fears Hamas attempts to rearm itself. Indeed, such free access to the Gaza Strip would likely negate Israel’s major gains in recent days in taking out Hamas’ rocket caches.
Rafah’s former airport, once known as the Yasser Arafat Airport, was bombed by Israel in 2001, during the height of the Second Palestinian Intifada.
Other Hamas truce conditions, the Egyptian sources told WND, include a complete end to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, the reopening of the Egypt-Gaza crossings and the release of more than 60 Hamas officials arrested by Israel in the West Bank in response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens.
Israel, meanwhile, continues its aerial offensive as the Arab League and the European Union join other international calls for a truce. Among them was Secretary of State John Kerry, who offered to broker a cease-fire.
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem say Israel is willing to discuss a 48-hour respite in the military campaign targeting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure while a longer-term truce is negotiated.
The sources said it is Hamas that has for now rejected a short-term truce, believing it can still achieve a mass-casualty event inside Israel so it can emerge from the week-long confrontation with a so-called victory.
To that effect, Hamas on Monday attempted to escalate its attacks with bombardments of southern Israeli communities and foiled attempts to send drones into Israel. One drone was shot down with a U.S.-supplied Patriot missile as it flew over the southern city of Ashdod. Video footage of the explosion indicated the unmanned aircraft was carrying a large payload of explosives.
Hamas claims it successfully flew two more drones over Israeli territory Monday, one armed with missiles. It claims one unarmed drone flew over the Tel Aviv headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces.
The IDF said it was not aware of any drone over Tel Aviv.
Egyptian military sources told WND the Hamas claim of flying a drone over Tel Aviv is being taken seriously.