Leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) headed to Cairo on Thursday for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials on ways to preserve the current ceasefire agreement with Israel, Palestinian sources said on Thursday.
The talks will also focus on ways of ending the dispute between Hamas and the ruling Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the sources said. Previous attempts by Egypt and other Arab countries to end the rivalry between the two parties have hit a snag.
PA, Egypt are eager to play a role in reconstruction of Gaza-strip
Both Egypt and the PA are eager to play a role in the reconstruction of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. However, Hamas has imposed restrictions on the authority, banning its officials from carrying out activities in the Strip.
The visit comes amid reports about a possible rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, which has long been backing Hamas and PIJ.
The Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat revealed that Cairo has “welcomed recurring indications from Iran to strengthen its relations with Egypt,” which “hopes to develop bilateral ties with Iran,” the paper said.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting this week with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said that Tehran welcomes better diplomatic relations with Egypt.
The upcoming talks in Cairo are the first of their kind since the end of the recent round of fighting between Israel and PIJ that Jerusalem called Operation Shield and Arrow.
The Egyptians played a crucial role in brokering the ceasefire on May 13 that ended five days of fighting, during which a total of 1,469 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. Qatar and the United Nations are also said to have assisted in efforts to reach the ceasefire.
The sources said Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, Mukhabarat, invited the Hamas and PIJ leaders to Cairo for talks on “security issues” related to Israel and the situation in the Gaza Strip.
The Hamas delegation will consist of officials from the coastal enclave and from Qatar, where several leaders of the group are based, including Ismail Haniyeh.
PIJ said in a statement that a delegation representing its political bureau headed to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing. The group did not say whether its Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhaleh, who is based in Lebanon, would join the discussions in Cairo.
Earlier, Issam al-Da’alis, who serves as de facto prime minister of Hamas, also headed to Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials on ways to boost Gaza’s economy.
Earlier this week, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also visited the Egyptian capital at the head of a large delegation of cabinet ministers. The talks focused on cooperation between the PA and Egypt in many fields, especially by increasing trade and cooperation in health, agriculture, education, culture, electricity and other sectors.
During a joint press conference with Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly, Shtayyeh said the Palestinians “need Egypt today more than ever.”
“We see the deep-rooted historical relationship between Palestine and Egypt in the Egyptian position supporting Palestine in all international platforms and forums to end the Israeli occupation, establish our independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, and achieve the right of return for refugees,” the PA premier said.