Hamas and Israel are in the final stages of agreeing a long-term ceasefire in return to opening Gaza’s sea and land borders, according to reports and senior Turkish officials.
Various Arab media outlets with sources close to the Hamas leadership said that the two sides were close to agreeing terms. Turkish and Qatari officials are thought to be involved, with reports that former British premier and Quartet envoy Tony Blair is mediating.
Under the terms, which were leaked, Hamas would pledge to stop all rocket fire from Gaza and to cease digging tunnels into Israel, for a period of eight years, and would not operate within 30 metres of the Israeli border.
In return Israel would let thousands of Palestinians cross from Gaza into Israel for work, increase the size of the Palestinian fishing zone and allow access to international waters through a maritime corridor, which would still be monitored by Israeli forces.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office denied “contact” but did not deny that there were talks, saying only: “There are no meetings with Hamas. There are no direct contacts, no contacts through other countries and no contacts through intermediaries.”
If Israel agrees to ease Gaza’s naval blockade, it will allow Israel and Turkey to work together on energy policy, and help Israel become a net exporter of natural gas, of which it has a huge supply offshore.
Turkey would be a willing buyer, but better relations are needed, because a pipeline for the gas to be exported north would have to cut through Turkish territorial waters.
However, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan has maintained that any such co-operation between the two states would be dependent on Israel easing Gaza’s blockade.