'Hamas delegation is in Cairo to discuss Schalit'
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND JPOST.COM STAFF
Zahar discusses Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, Schalit; Abbas tells Egyptian diplomat Egypt is "backbone of Palestinian aspirations."
A Hamas delegation traveled to Cairo on Tuesday in order to discuss the
release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Israel Radio reported.
Palestnian source told Israel Radio that the possible reconciliation
between Hamas and Fatah will be the main topic of discussion at the
meeting, but Schalit is also on the agenda.
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The delegation, which will be headed by Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head
of Hamas’s political bureau, is scheduled to meet with Egyptian Foreign
Minister Nabil Elaraby and members of the ruling military council.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar arrived in Cairo earlier this week for what was described as a “private visit” to relatives.
This was Zahar’s second visit to Cairo since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February.
Hamas and Egyptian leaders have expressed a desire in improving their relations in the post-Mubarak era.
The Egyptians have signaled their willingness to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
In a goodwill gesture to Hamas, the Egyptian authorities have in recent
weeks released scores of Palestinians who were held in Egyptian prisons
because of their activities on behalf of the movement.
The Egyptians have also promised to look into Hamas’s request to open a
representative office that would function as an unofficial embassy in
Osama Hamdan, Hamas’s “foreign minister,” said on Tuesday that his
movement was keen on improving its relationship with the new government
“Our contacts with Egypt are continuing,” he said. “We are discussing
various issues related to the situation in the Palestinian arena and the
reopening of the Rafah border crossing.”
the same time that the Hamas delegation was meeting with officials in
Cairo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sat down with an
Egyptian diplomat in Ramallah.
In the meeting with Egyptian Ambassador to the PA Yasser Othman, Abbas
said, "Egypt is the backbone of our people's aspirations toward having
an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital," official
Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA reported.
On the meeting's agenda was reconciliation between Abbas' Fatah and Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip.
Despite the Hamas talks in Cairo, the Prime Minister's Office last week announced that Hamas has not
responded to Israel's most recent offer for a prisoner exchange deal to
free Schalit in over a year.
The statement came in response to scathing criticism from the soldier's
grandfather in a letter publicized earlier in the day. The PMO said that
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in constant contact with captured
IDF soldier Gilad Schalit's family, and feels their pain.
Zvi Schalit had charged that every time the media discusses Gilad, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invites the soldier's parents, Noam and
Aviva Schalit, to a meeting that does not yield any results. In his
letter, he also accused Netanyahu of cruel cynicism.