Egypt said to cancel visit of large Hamas delegation
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Egypt said to cancel visit of large Hamas delegation

Cairo is reportedly not impressed by Hamas's new border patrols, nor answers to questions it posed in their last meeting

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk (second from left) speaks to media at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip after negotiations in Cairo, August 28, 2014. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk (second from left) speaks to media at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip after negotiations in Cairo, August 28, 2014. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In another sign of deteriorating relations between Egypt and Hamas, Egyptian intelligence officials cancelled an invitation to a large Hamas delegation to visit their country, an Arabic newspaper reported on Tuesday.

A large Hamas delegation with members from Doha and Gaza, headed by deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, had been invited to visit Cairo in the near future. However, informed sources told the London-based Arabic newspaper Rai al-Youm that the invitation was now canceled.

The reason for the cancelation, the report said, was that Egypt’s intelligence chiefs are not content with answers to questions posed to Hamas leaders during a meeting in Cairo between the two groups back in March.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a high level Hamas official, told the newspaper that the trip was “delayed” until Hamas could come up with the right answers.

Mahmoud al-Zahar attends a demonstration in Khan Yunis in March (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)
Mahmoud al-Zahar attends a demonstration in Khan Yunis in 2012. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

In March — at the first meeting held between Cairo and Gaza since ties between the two sides nosedived when Muslim Brotherhood official Mohammed Morsi was ousted as president in 2013, and replaced by former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — Egyptian intelligence officials issued a number of demands and questions ahead of any possible reconciliation.

Egypt, along with Israel, has accused Hamas of supporting the Islamic State’s branch in its Sinai Peninsula. Cairo demanded that Hamas tighten border controls and prevent IS fighters from entering the Gaza Strip.

Members of Hamas' security forces patrol an area along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, where Hamas began increasing its forces, on April 14, 2016 in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)
Members of Hamas’ security forces patrol an area along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, where Hamas began increasing its forces, on April 14, 2016 in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)

But the Egyptian officials are reportedly not satisfied with new measures introduced by Hamas on the Sinai border, which were taken following the March meeting, and believes Hamas is still interacting with IS.

During a meeting between Egyptian intelligence officials and another unnamed Palestinian faction last month, the Tuesday report said, Cairo’s representatives said they consider Hamas’s actions on the border “devoid of any practical content.”

Cairo also wants Hamas to cut ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now outlawed in Egypt. Hamas has said it is no longer politically connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps most importantly, Cairo accuses Hamas, along with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, of being behind the assassination of its chief prosecutor Hisham Barakat in June 2015, and is demanding Hamas produce the individuals involved in the murder. Hamas has claimed innocence in the matter.

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