Israel and Hamas Reportedly Conducting Secret Face-to-Face Talks

Reports describe a series of ongoing talks between Israeli and Hamas leaders in Europe.

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Matt Wanderman,

Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh
Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh
Flash 90

Reports are arising about secret negotiations between Israeli and Hamas officials to find a way to deliver goods more efficiently to Gaza.

Discussions are currently focusing on building a floating port in the Mediterranean, between Cyprus and Gaza, according to the Jordanian paper Ad-Dustour, translated by Haaretz. Such a port would allow goods to enter Gaza without having to go through Israel. At the same time, Israel would be able to inspect all cargo and maintain its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The reports describe the talks as being directly between Israel and Hamas, and taking place in various European capitals, under the authority of Turkey.

Neither Israel nor Hamas has confirmed the stories. According to one Israeli official, "The idea of building a port for the Gaza Strip has not been discussed in any forum, and is not on the table."

The Palestinian Authority (PA), though, is taking the claims more seriously. Some in Judea-Samaria fear that Hamas would use such talks to strengthen their legitimacy and independence, rather than try to repair relations with the PA.

Concerns about the talks has reached the highest levels in Ramallah. PA President Mahmoud Abbas claimed today (Tuesday) to have their "full protocol," according to journalist Khaled Abu Toameh.

Israel has enforced a naval blockade around Gaza since 2007, two years after Hamas took over the Strip. There have been several attempts by foreign actors to break the blockade and insisting that they are only bringing humanitarian supplies.

According to the San Remo Manual, the accepted source for international maritime law, a blockade loses its legitimacy if the enforcer allows any ships to pass through freely. Should Israel permit any of the "freedom flotillas" to reach Gaza, the entire blockade would be legally unjustifiable.