Gaza is just days or even hours away from war, Palestinian factions have warned, as tensions build between the militant group Hamas and Israel.
Sources close to Hamas’s political leadership told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper that chances of war with Israel “stood at 95 percent” and could happen at any moment.
Individuals in contact with Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s hardline political leader in the Gaza strip, have said Palestinian factions believe Israel will use an upcoming training exercise as cover to attack Hamas.
In preparation, the Islamist group has declared a state of high alert, evacuated official buildings, including its headquarters, and deployed road blocks across Gaza. Sinwar apparently believes that Israel is planning to open a southern front against Hamas.
However, humanitarian sources have told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper the likelihood of immediate clashes is low, despite a grim atmosphere in the Gaza strip over deteriorating economic conditions and frozen talks between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas and ruled over the enclave and its two million inhabitants until 2017 when it began restoring administration to the PA.
In recent months, Hamas and the mainstream Fatah party, which dominates the PA, have made attempts at reconciliation but efforts to reach common ground have been dogged by recriminations and infighting.
In the coming days a senior Fatah delegation is due to travel to Gaza. The PA has said Hamas is yet to hand over crucial powers over tax collection and security, while Hamas has accused Abbas of neglecting Gaza and inflicting misery on inhabitants through sanctions Abbas's government imposed last year.
Tensions in the Gaza strip have also mounted since President Donald Trump’s December announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move, which broke with decades of United States foreign policy, has called into question the likelihood of a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The majority of the international community holds that Jerusalem should be subject to negotiation between both sides of the conflict.
Following Trump’s announcement, Hamas called for a third Intifada or armed uprising against Israel. Palestinians have waged two uprisings, or Intifadas, against Israel since 1987.
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