Israel on high alert after Hamas fires rocket on eve of regional summit

Hamas fired a rocket at Gaza border communities on the eve of a regional summit in Sharm el-Sheikh aimed at quelling an upsurge in violence during Ramadan, which starts on Wednesday.

The rocket fell in an open area near Nahal Oz without causing injury, but Israel is concerned that Hamas, backed by Iran, will push forward with other terror activity both from Gaza and in the West Bank.

Israel is looking for the PA to resume its security cooperation with the IDF, a move that would make it easier to prevent an increase in West Bank violence.

A regional summit in Sharm el-Sheikh

The Sharm el-Sheikh gathering, the second of its kind this year, will include representatives from the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the United States.

The first gathering of representatives of the five governments was held in Aqaba in February. On that same day, a Hamas terrorist killed two Israeli brothers as they drove through the West Bank town of Huwara. Security forces are on alert for terror activity that could similarly mark Sunday’s summit.

Hamas and other Palestinian factions called on the PA to boycott the gathering.

Members of the Islamic Action Front protest against the meeting between top Israeli and Palestinian officials at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, in Amman, Jordan February 26, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/JEHAD SHELBAK)

On Saturday, PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh dismissed those calls and announced that a Palestinian delegation will participate in the summit at the Egyptian Red Sea resort town.

He said the decision to participate in the summit aims “to defend the rights of our Palestinian people to freedom and independence, and to demand an end to this continuous Israeli aggression against us and to stop all measures and policies that violate our blood, land, property and sanctities.”

The Israeli delegation will be led by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and will include Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Ronen Bar, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Ghassan Alyan and Director of the Policy and Political-Military Bureau Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dror Shalom. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan will also participate in the summit, as will US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf.

At the Aqaba summit, Israel and the PA agreed to commit to all previous agreements between them. They also committed to de-escalation on the ground and to prevent further violence.

“The participants agreed to continue meeting under this formula, maintain positive momentum and expand agreement towards a wider political process leading to a just and lasting peace,” read a joint communiqué issued after the summit.

Israeli raid in Jenin prompts calls to boycott summit

Hamas and other Palestinian factions had also urged the PA to boycott the summit in Aqaba but to no avail.

Similar calls surfaced after last week’s Israeli security forces raid in Jeninwhere four Palestinians, including two Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders, Yousef Shreim and Nidal Hazem, were killed.

Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, voiced strong opposition to the PA’s participation in the two summits in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh.

Abu Marzouk, in an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news television channel, accused the PA of “conspiring against the Palestinian resistance and martyrs.”

“Our Palestinian people will reject this behavior,” Abu Marzouk said. “Our policy until now has been to avoid internecine fighting or internal differences. We call on them to backtrack from their project with the occupation.”

Abu Marzouk, who was speaking from Moscow, said the Palestinians have a “direct interest” in escalation with Israel. “We reject the Sharm el-Sheikh summit and other summits that seek to achieve calm,” he added.

In Moscow, Abu Marzouk and other Hamas officials held talks with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov and discussed with him the latest developments in the regional and international arenas, according to Palestinian sources.

The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also called on the PA to boycott the Sharm summit.

Senior PFLP official Mahmoud al-Ras said in a statement that the PA’s participation in Sunday’s summit would be a “free-of-charge service of the right-wing fascist Zionist government.”

The official warned that the PA’s actions would deepen divisions among the Palestinians and harm the national interests of the Palestinians.