Egypt spy chief reportedly in Tel Aviv as Hamas-Israel deal draws near
Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamil reportedly flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday to meet Israeli officials in an attempt to broker a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.
Al-Hayat said Kamil and the Israeli officials discussed the possibility of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, as well as ongoing talks between Hamas, the de facto ruling party in Gaza, and Fatah, the leading party in the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Since July, Egypt has been attempting to negotiate a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel while simultaneously trying to reconcile Fatah and Hamas.
Israeli forces have killed at least 169 Palestinians in Gaza since the beginning of the Great March of Return on 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.
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, sparking concerns that a larger conflict could yet break out and prompting efforts by United Nations officials and Egypt in recent weeks to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas.
On Wednesday, Israel reopened its only goods crossing with Gaza after over a month of punitive closure. Israeli officials have nonetheless denied any “arrangement” had been reached with Hamas, while Palestinians have expressed serious scepticism over what the one-day reopening means with regards to any long-term agreement.
Kamil was also reportedly due to head to the occupied West Bank on Thursday to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, al-Hayat wrote.
Meanwhile, officials at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt confirmed that 26 Palestinian political figures - including members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad - had exited the Gaza Strip on Thursday and were headed to Cairo - presumably for talks.
A Hamas source told MEE that the United States has reportedly given Egypt the green light to mediate between Hamas and Israel regardless of whether a Palestinian unity deal is achieved - a move which has angered the Palestinian Authority.
According to a Fatah official who also spoke with MEE, during a visit to Cairo earlier this month Abbas "told the Egyptians: you are playing in our courtyard, you are playing in Gaza against the Palestinian national interests".
Kamil’s visit, if confirmed, came a day after Israel’s Channel 10 revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had flown to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 22 May.
The Israeli government has not commented on whether the meeting in Egypt took place in May. The alleged 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, during which Israeli forces killed at least 65 Palestinians.
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.
The possible attempt to bypass the PA is viewed as an attempt to deal with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank separately as part of US President Donald Trump’s "Deal of the Century", shattering any remaining hopes of a two-state solution bringing the occupied Palestinian territories together.