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Hamas moves to re-ignite violent Friday protests in Gaza

FILE - In this April 20, 2018 file photo, Palestinian protesters fly a kite with a burning rag dangling from its tail during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel.
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File
Hamas has reportedly increased funding to units responsible for launching the flaming kites towards Israel

An Egyptian security delegation is anticipated to arrive to the Gaza Strip amid rising fears of a deterioration in the security situation after tensions over the partial closing of the Egyptian border crossing.

On Tuesday, the organizing body behind Gaza’s “March of Return and Breaking of the Siege” protests called for renewed escalation in the weekly Friday demonstrations along the border.

According to Palestinian sources in Gaza, Hamas has increased funding to their incendiary balloon units, which have launched balloon attacks into Israeli territory since the protests began.

After a reported meeting between Hamas officials and fighters belonging to the "kite unit" and "tire unit," the militant group's leadership decided to increase their budgets to prepare for a new round of violence.

Though they have been relatively calmer since a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants in November, the weekly protests along the border have seen demonstrators launching incendiary balloons into Israeli territory and burning tires near the security fence.

Hamas has warned in recent days that the continued worsening of circumstances for residents would lead to a violent escalation with Israel after Qatari funds supposed to reach Gaza earlier this week did not arrive.Jaafar Ashtiyeh (AFP/File)

On Tuesday, the Egyptian border crossing with Gaza was closed for Palestinians seeking to leave the strip due to infighting between the Palestinian factions.

This week has seen increased tension and fears of escalated violence as the Gaza Strip’s ruling Hamas has found itself in a number of conflicts with both Israel, as well as the rival Palestinian Authority.

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority withdrew from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, following claims of widespread arrests of members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in Gaza.

AP Photo/Adel Hana

On the Israeli front, a brief escalation of violence erupted after a rocket launched by Gaza into Israeli territory on Monday reportedly led the Israeli government to delay the third installment of Qatari funds to the enclave. Though contradictory reports say the delay was due to other factors unrelated to the rocket.

Monday’s rocket fire towards the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon came in response to Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in the strip, which were in turn a response to an incendiary balloon that had landed in Israel.

In response to the rocket, Israel again launched a retaliatory airstrike on Hamas positions on Monday.

The $15 million in funds were scheduled to be delivered by a Qatari official to the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip as part of an agreement brokered by Egypt and Qatar to ease tensions between Israel and Gaza.


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