A Palestinian boy, hoping to cross into Egypt with his family, looks out a car window as he waits at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas and Egypt are scheduled to resume discussions on Monday over ways of ending the crisis between the two sides – one that could lead to the reopening of the Rafah border crossing.
The discussions between the two sides resumed earlier this month, days after Egyptian Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar accused Hamas of helping the Muslim Brotherhood kill attorney-general Hisham Barakat. Hamas leaders have strongly denied any involvement in the assassination, which took place June 2015.
A senior Hamas delegation is expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday evening, according to Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan. He said the delegation members would hold talks with officials from Egypt’s General Intelligence, the Mukhabarat
The delegation consists of Hamas officials Mahmoud Zahar, Khalil Al-Haya, Emad Al-Alami, Nizar Awadallah and Maher Obeid.
On the eve of the second visit to Cairo, Zahar denied that the Egyptians had asked his movement to help the Egyptian army in the fight against Muslim extremists in Sinai.
Zahar said the Hamas team’s visit to Cairo came as part of the movement’s desire to improve its relations with Egypt. He said the Egyptians have expressed readiness to “open a new page” in their ties with Hamas.
Zahar described the first round of discussions between the two sides as “acceptable and positive.” Hamas has asked the Egyptian authorities to reopen the Rafah border crossing and allow mutual trade between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, he added.
The Egyptians have repeatedly refused to reopen the terminal unless Palestinian Authority security forces are allowed to manage the Palestinian side.
According to Zahar, the Egyptians asked Hamas to directly address the Egyptian public and refute the charges against the movement, which include complicity in the assassination of the attorney- general and assisting Muslim terrorists in Sinai.
Zahar said the Egyptians also demanded that Hamas rein in “terrorist elements” inside the Gaza Strip.
Sources close to Hamas said the movement’s leaders were expected to inform the Egyptians of their decision to “disengage” from the Muslim Brotherhood and prevent the infiltration of terrorists from the Gaza Strip into Egypt.