Netanyahu met Sisi in secret visit to Egypt: Israeli media reports

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According to Channel 10, the Israeli PM met with the Egyptian president in May to discuss a ceasefire with Gaza

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Tuesday 14 August 2018 8:32 UTC
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a rare, secret visit to Egypt in May for talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, Israeli television reported on Monday.

There was no immediate confirmation of the visit from official sources, but the private Channel 10 station said the leaders met on 22 May.

The reported visit followed a day of large-scale protests on 14 May in the besieged Gaza Strip against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli forces violently repressed the demonstrations, killing at least 65 Palestinians.

Egyptian mediation

Egypt has previously mediated between Netanyahu's government and the Hamas movement, the de facto ruling party in Gaza since 2007.

According to American sources quoted by Channel 10, Netanyahu and Sisi discussed the possibility of a long-term truce in Gaza, where Israel has waged three wars against Hamas since 2008.

A Hamas victory in 2006 legislative elections led to an armed conflict with Fatah, the leading party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), following which the PA was effectively booted out of power in the Gaza Strip.

Since 2007, Gaza has also been submitted to a crushing siege imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt.

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According to Channel 10, Netanyahu and Sisi also examined the possible return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, an easing of Israel's blockade, as well as the reconstruction of Gaza's war-scarred infrastructure.

The Egyptian presidency was not immediately available to respond to an AFP request for comment on the Channel 10 report.

Fragile truce

Gaza has witnessed mass protests as part of the Great March of Return since 30 March, as Palestinians demand the right to return to homes their families fled or were expelled from in 1948 during the establishment of the state of Israel, in addition to a lift of the siege.

At least 169 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the beginning of the march, mostly during demonstrations.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.

There have also been three major military flare-ups between Israel and Hamas since July.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that another round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was inevitable, despite attempts to reach a long-term truce.

Thursday saw at least three Palestinians killed amid extensive Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as Palestinian militant groups launched scores of rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel.

A fragile truce came into effect Thursday night, mediated by Egypt and the UN, according to a source close to the negotiations.

There have been efforts by United Nations officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, though Israeli officials have not commented on them.

Fatah officials have told Middle East Eye of the PA’s anger at being sidelined by Egypt in these talks - which some fear may be part of the broader US ‘deal of the century’ initiative at the expense of Palestinian unity.