Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to Cairo over the weekend to meet with Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for “urgent” talks, the PA’s envoy to Egypt said Tuesday, amid tensions over Egypt’s involvement in an internal Palestinian rift.
In addition, Jamal al-Shobaki said that the two leaders will discuss US efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as well Egyptian efforts to end the ongoing internal “Palestinian division.”
“[Abbas and Sissi] will discuss during the meeting the Palestinian issue in all of its aspects, in addition to the current conditions the Middle East is going through, as well as the dangerous escalation in settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories,” Shobaki said, according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency.
It was unclear what prompted the need for the talks, but they came on the heels of developments in Gaza that point to a new government being formed between Hamas and Abbas’s rival in the Fatah party, Mohammad Dahlan.
Dahlan is a former Fatah leader and strongman in Gaza, who was expelled from the Palestinian territories by Abbas in 2011. He was also once considered persona non grata by Hamas and ousted in the coup that put the Islamist terror group in power in the Strip 10 years ago.
But according to Hamas leader Ahmad Yusuf, following meetings between Dahlan, Hamas leaders and Egyptian intelligence in early June, a reconciliation deal is in the works.
Yusuf, who spoke to the Jordanian daily al-Ghad on Monday, said the deal between Dahlan and Hamas would see the establishment of a new “management committee” of Gaza.
Yusuf added that Samir Mashrawi — considered Dahlan’s right-hand man — is expected to return to the enclave in the coming days.
Fatah has been at odds with Hamas since 2007, when the terror group took control of Gaza in a bloody coup. Despite repeated attempts to reach a reconciliation agreement, the two sides have been unable to patch up their differences.
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas have been further ratcheted up in recent months, as the PA has been carrying out a series of tough measures aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the coastal enclave since April. The measures have included reducing the flow of electricity by 35 percent, and slashing government salaries and medical aid provided to the Strip.
On Tuesday, the PA announced that it “sent into early retirement” 6,145 employees in Gaza, declaring the move part of a strategy to force Hamas to cede control of the Palestinian enclave.
“This measure, previous measures, and any other measures that may be taken in this framework, are temporary, and are connected to Hamas abandoning [Palestinian] division,” the spokesperson for the government in Ramalllah, Yusuf al-Mahmoud, said in a statement Wafa.
Dov Lieber and Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.