JERUSALEM, Israel – US President Donald Trump's Mideast envoys continue efforts to move the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward.
Speaking on behalf of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor; Jason Greenblatt, the administration's special representative for international negotiations; and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman called on Hamas to choose peace instead of terror.
That scenario requires Hamas to renounce terrorism, release two Israelis imprisoned in the Gaza Strip and return the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar, head of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the group's "military wing," Photo, AP
In exchange for meeting those requirements, the US administration is prepared to provide substantial financial aid to help rehabilitate and develop the Gaza coastal enclave.
"International donors are conflicted," Kushner wrote in an article for the Washington Post. "Should they try to help the people directly at the certain risk of enriching terrorists or withhold future funding to Hamas and watch the people it is supposed to govern suffer?"
"Until governance changes or Hamas recognizes the State of Israel, abides by previous diplomatic agreements and renounces violence, there is no good option," he wrote.
"Seventy years after the founding of Israel, it would be wise for Hamas to acknowledge that the existence of Israel is a permanent reality," he said.
Israel is a vibrant nation, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
"If Hamas allowed it, there are engaged, interested parties with resources who are ready to get involved," Kushner continued.
"If Hamas demonstrates clear, peaceful intentions – not just by word but more importantly by deed – than all manner of new opportunities becomes possible. There is no reason the Palestinians (in both the West Bank and Gaza) can't enjoy economic success and integrate into a thriving regional economy – if they let us help."
The US, UK, and EU all list Hamas as a terrorist group. It's no secret that the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the group fulfills that calling in many ways.
Hamas sets tires on fire near the border with Israel, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
On March 30, Hamas began what it called the "Great March of Return," referring to the Palestinian perception that the Jews – the "Zionist occupiers" – will be conquered and the land will be theirs.
Though Hamas leadership initially billed the march as "peaceful demonstrations," its leadership quickly admitted, albeit in Arabic, that was not the plan. Rather it was to infiltrate Israel in any way possible,through tunnels dug under the border, by destroying the security fence or whatever it took to get inside Israel to attack the civilian population.
IDF forces near the border with the Gaza Strip, Photo, IDF
The media in Israel and abroad portray the IDF's efforts to defend the border as "excessive force." While the majority of demonstrators turned out to be Hamas operatives, the sprinkling of women and children at the front lines provided fodder for media spin.
Their latest weapons are incendiary kites and balloons that have set wheat fields, orchards, forests and nature reserves on fire, literally burning up thousands of acres.
On Friday, Israel Police bomb disposal units dealt with a balloon attached to a device that landed in a garden in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, the Police Spokesman's Office said in a statement. Police have asked Jerusalem residents to notify them immediately if they spot a suspicious object and stay at least 50 meters (yards) away from it.
Meanwhile, Hamas conducted a military drill Thursday to prepare for a possible Israeli military incursion in the territory they've ruled for more than a decade.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with senior military and security personnel Thursday afternoon to assess the situation.
Earlier Thursday, Israelis in Gaza-perimeter communities headed for their bomb shelters after four Code Red air raid sirens warned of incoming projectiles. A mortar shell that hit near a cow shed failed to injure an animals or cause property damage.
On the same day, kites and balloons launched from Gaza started nine fires in southern Israel, one near Kibbutz Kissufim.