Hamas reportedly tells Mladenov: We’re not interested in war with Israel

One day after meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, , met in Gaza City on Tuesday with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
  The meeting, which was attended by several senior Hamas officials, focused on ways of avoiding a major military confrontation between Israel and Hamas, according to sources in the Gaza Strip.

The sources said they did not know whether the UN envoy had relayed any message from Israel to the Hamas leaders.

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However, the sources said that the UN envoy reaffirmed his “strong desire” to prevent another war between Israel and Hamas.

Haniyeh and the Hamas leaders are reported to have said during the meeting that Hamas “was not interested in a military escalation” with Israel. They also repeated their demand for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza Strip, and the reopening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel and the Rafah terminal with Egypt.

Last weekend, Mladenov reportedly played a key role in preventing an all-out confrontation between Israel and Hamas. The two sides were on the brink of a fourth war after Israeli targeted some 60 Hamas bases and structures in the Gaza Strip in response to a sniper attack that killed IDF soldier Aviv Levi.

Mladenov and Haniyeh discussed the current situation in the Gaza Strip, especially ways of improving the harsh living conditions of the Palestinians living there, said a statement released by the Hamas leader’s office after the meeting.

The statement said that the UN envoy briefed Haniyeh about the results of his s with relevant parties. The two also discussed the newly passed Nation-State Law, Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, and the current financial crisis in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

During the meeting, Haniyeh also complained to the UN representative about the arrest of Palestinian journalist Lama Khater from her home in Hebron by the IDF early Tuesday. Haniyeh presented Mladenov with a photo of Khater hugging her son before being led away by IDF soldiers. The photo has gone viral on Palestinian and Arab social media sites. Khater is a vociferous critic of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s political stands.

On Monday, hundreds of UNRWA employees surrounded the office of Matthias Schmale, the agency’s director of operations in Gaza City, and prevented him from leaving. They were protesting UNRWA’s decision to lay off dozens of employees because of the agency’s financial crisis. The senior UNRWA official was safely escorted out of the building by Hamas police officers.

Mladenov said after his visit to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday that he was “hopeful that with collective efforts by all sides we can avoid another confrontation, allow Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis in communities across the border to sleep in peace and begin addressing all humanitarian issues.”

Earlier, Mladenov briefed the UN Security Council on his efforts to prevent a further escalation in tensions between Israel and Hamas. In his briefing, Mladenov reiterated his call to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to “step back from the brink.” He said that “those who seek to provoke Israelis and Palestinians to war must not succeed.”

The UN envoy told the Security Council that “after intense efforts by the UN and Egypt, I can report that the situation is calming down, although tensions remain.” He said that on Tuesday, the first 100,000 liters of much-needed fuel were allowed through the Kerem Shalom crossing to be distributed by the UN, prioritizing hospitals and emergency services.”