Hamas says no breakthrough in Cairo talks
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Hamas says no breakthrough in Cairo talks

High-level delegation from embattled terror group returns from Egypt, but no word on effort to improve relations with vital neighbor

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

Yahya Sinwar (R) the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh attend the funeral of Hamas official Mazen Faqha in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
Yahya Sinwar (R) the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh attend the funeral of Hamas official Mazen Faqha in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

A high-level Hamas delegation returned home from Cairo after nine days of security and political talks intended to improve ties with Egypt, but has not announced any breakthroughs or any signed agreements, Hamas-linked media reported Monday.

Hamas denied reports in Arab media that an agreement had been signed between Cairo and Hamas.

A delegation including Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar and a senior commander in the group’s military wing, Tawfik Abu Naim, left to Cairo on June 4 in an attempt to improve relations Egypt.

Hamas has been under intense pressure lately both from the Palestinian Authority and due to the crisis with Qatar — a key Hamas supporter — which is being urged to cut contacts with the Gaza-based terror group.

Hamas is eager to restore ties with Egypt, which controls its border and joins Israel in imposing a blockade aimed at preventing arms reaching Hamas.

Hamas and Egypt have had cool relations since Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown by the military in 2013. Morsi came from Hamas’ parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

“All the shared issues have been studied in a serious and deep way with our Egyptian brothers,” a Hamas source told the terror group’s official radio station al-Aqsa voice on Monday.

The source denied reports in the Arabic press that a written agreement had been signed between Cairo and Hamas.

The delegation left Gaza for Cairo just one day before Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar.

In this Oct. 23, 2012 photo, then-Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, left, and Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, arrive for a corner-stone laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Mohammed Salem, Pool)
In this Oct. 23, 2012 photo, then-Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, left, and Gaza’s Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, arrive for a corner-stone laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Mohammed Salem, Pool)

Qatar has been a pillar of support for Hamas, providing funding as well as allowing Hamas leadership to stay within its borders.

One of the reasons cited for the cutting off of diplomatic ties is Qatar’s support of extremism in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Riyadh specifically listed Hamas among the extremists supported by Qatar.

Hamas leaders connected to its military branch left Qatar at the start of the diplomatic crisis, though its political leadership was allowed to remain in the country.

Hamas delegations have been in and out of Cairo for the past few years but have seen little success. The Rafah crossing for Gazans who seek to leave the embattled Strip is still only periodically opened.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, tunneling under the border and firing thousands of rockets into Israel, and is avowedly committed to destroying the Jewish state.

Gaza is also experiencing a deepening humanitarian crises with severe shortages of electricity shortages, a lack of medicine and a lack of drinkable water.

Hamas has been trying to convince Egypt that it is a reliable security partner. It has deployed more troops along the border with Egypt’s northern Sinai region, where the Egyptian military is battling Islamic extremists.

Security officials examine the site of a car bomb in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, Egypt, Saturday Oct. 19, 2013. A car bomb exploded Saturday near an Egyptian military intelligence compound in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, wounding several soldiers, security officials said, as militants appear to be expanding the scope of attacks beyond the restive Sinai Peninsula. (AP Photo)
Security officials examine the site of a car bomb in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, Egypt, October 19, 2013. (AP Photo)

But over the past month, at least four Gaza residents were killed while fighting alongside the Islamic State terror group’s Sinai affiliate, complicating Hamas’ reconciliation attempts.

Hamas made a gesture toward Egypt last month with a new policy document that dropped its longtime association with the Muslim Brotherhood and identified itself as a Palestinian movement fighting only against Israel.

Yet, according to a report published on Friday in the Pan-Arab daily as-Sharq al-Awsat, Hamas has not been able to solve the security issue.

Egypt has demanded Hamas turn over men it believes are responsible with working with ISIS in the Sinai, but Hamas has rejected the accusation against its operatives and refused to hand them over.

According to the report, Hamas terror commander Abu Naim’s presence was requested by Egypt specifically to discuss the issue of these men wanted by Cairo.

A Hamas delegation is also expected to visit Qatar and Iran in the coming days.

AP contributed to this report.

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