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Hamas chief in Egypt for first visit since election

Agreements made this summer suggest a detente between the two sides
The head of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas Ismail Haniya (AFP)

The head of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Ismail Haniya, travelled on Saturday to Egypt for his first visit there since his election in May, the group said.

Hamas controls the small Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave and has been seeking to improve relations with neighbouring Egypt in a bid to convince Cairo to open the territory's border with Gaza, its only crossing except with Israel.

Relations have been tense since the Hamas-allied Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in 2013 and eventually replaced by former military leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has accused Hamas of supporting terrorism in Egypt. 

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But agreements made this summer suggested a detente between the two sides, with Hamas officials saying Egypt agreed to open the Rafah crossing in the coming months.

A Hamas statement said the delegation would discuss "mechanisms to ease the siege on Gaza and other issues of mutual concern," including reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the internationally recognised Palestinian government based in the West Bank.

While it is Haniya's first visit since he was elected, senior Hamas officials have held high-level talks in Egypt since.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, and the Jewish state closely follows the Palestinian movement's ties with Egypt, one of only two Arab states with which it has signed a peace treaty.

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