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As Palestinian Authority moves into Gaza, Egypt intel generals visit enclave

Cairo spymaster Khaled Fawzi also reportedly to join trip timed to coincide with Monday’s arrival of PA prime minister in Strip

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

An Egyptian security control tower near the Egypt-Gaza border at Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, August 13, 2014. (Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
An Egyptian security control tower near the Egypt-Gaza border at Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, August 13, 2014. (Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A high-level delegation from Egyptian intelligence visited the Gaza Strip on Sunday in order to help facilitate the reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah

Chief of Egyptian intelligence Khaled Fawzi will reportedly be heading to Ramallah and the Gaza Strip later this week.

His reported visit coincides with the arrival to the Strip on Monday of a high-level delegation from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, which includes PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Fazwi was instrumental in setting up the current round of Palestinian unity talks, hosting discussions in Cairo in September.

The Egyptian delegation that arrived on Sunday included major generals in the Egyptian intelligence Hammam Abu Zeid and General Sameh Kamel, according to a statement put out by the Palestinian Civil Affairs Authority.

A Palestinian official from the ministry was quoted by Palestinian press as well as AFP that Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat had entered Gaza with the delegation.

However, it was later revealed that the statement was incorrect, and that Khairat did not enter Gaza, but rather just accompanied the Egyptian generals to the border crossing and then returned to Tel Aviv, the Egyptian daily al-Dostor reported.

Egypt’s new ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, February 25, 2016 (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Hamas, in an official statement, said the delegation was part of Egyptian “efforts to foster Palestinian reconciliation.”

Hamas released images of the Egyptian delegation meeting with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar in Gaza.

https://twitter.com/hamasinfo/status/914482366856482817

The Palestinian news network al-Raya reported Saturday that Egyptian intelligence head Fawzi was slated to arrive in Gaza on Monday. The PA controls the West Bank while Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 coup.

The PA controls the West Bank while Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody 2007 coup.

But on Sunday the Hebrew news website Ynet reported that Fawzi was expected to first meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday, and then travel to the Gaza Strip.

In contrast to these news reports, an official in Abbas’s office told The Times of Israel that a meeting between the PA leader and Fawzi has not yet been set, and it is “unclear” whether the two will actually get together.

Hamdallah and his delegation will be traveling to Gaza to begin the process of reinstating the PA as the governing body of the Palestinian enclave.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 (AP/Dita Alangkara)

Since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas, which seeks Israel’s elimination, has fought three wars with the Jewish state. The Strip is under Egyptian and Israeli blockade — aimed by Israel to prevent Hamas from importing weaponry — and suffers from severe water and electricity shortages, an economic slump and unemployment of more than 40 percent.

Hamas and its rival Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, have both expressed confidence that the latest unity initiative will fare better than the failures of the past.

But among many questions to be answered is the central issue of whether Hamas is really prepared to give up its Gaza security apparatus and share power with the PA.

On Thursday, Hamas said it was unwilling to even broach the subject of dismantling its military wing to facilitate the creation of a unity government.

AFP contributed to this report.

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