A Palestinian man inspects the scene of an Israeli air strike on a Hamas security forces site in the southern Gaza Strip October 17, 2018.
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
Days after the US offered a $5 million reward for his capture, senior Hamas official Saleh Arouri was scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday at the head of a Hamas delegation.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Arouri and the delegation members were invited by Egypt to discuss bolstering bilateral relations, ending the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and resolving the Hamas-Fatah dispute.
In addition to Arouri, who lives in Lebanon, the delegation included Musa Abu Marzouk, Khalil al-Haya, Ezzat al-Risheq, Hussam Badran and Rouhi Mushtaha.
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip said that the visit of the Hamas officials to Cairo is in wake of Egypt’s continued efforts to achieve a long-term truce between the group and Israel. Sources pointed out that relations between Egypt and Hamas have significantly improved in recent weeks.
Last week, Egyptian intelligence officials attended a rally organized by Hamas’s military wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, to commemorate the seven Palestinians who were killed in a clash with an elite IDF unit near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. It was the first time that senior Egyptian officials had attended a memorial service organized by al-Qassam.
Last week, the US State Department announced a $5 million
reward for information which would lead to the capture of Arouri and two senior Hezbollah members.
“Hamas and Hezbollah receive weapons, training, and funding from Iran, which the Secretary of State has designated as a state sponsor of terrorism,” read the statement by the US Department of State, adding that both groups were designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) in October 1997 and as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entities in October 2001.
Arouri is one of the founders of Izzadin al-Qassam, and is responsible for several bloody terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, including the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.
In another sign of the apparent rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt, Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday on a visit to a number of Arab and Islamic countries. Hamas did not name the countries that Zahar is scheduled to visit. However, it said that he was accompanied by three senior Hamas officials, Mushir al-Masri, Marwan Abu Ras and Mohammed Faraj.
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