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Bennett and Egypt’s Sissi to meet publicly in Sinai soon — report

Israel continues easing restrictions over Gaza as Egypt hopes to see significant progress toward ceasefire, prisoner swap against backdrop of rare sit-down between leaders

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Composite/AP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Composite/AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will travel to the Sinai Peninsula to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the near future, a report Wednesday claimed.

Contrary to many of the previous meetings Israeli leaders have held with their Arab counterparts, which were covert and only divulged after the fact, the Bennett-Sissi sit-down will be public, the Kan broadcaster reported, without citing a source for the information.

The visit will take place in the Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, according to Kan. It said the meeting would take place “soon,” without offering a timeframe.

No details of the planned meeting have been released since Bennett announced last month that he had accepted an invitation to meet Sissi. Hours later, the counter-terror bureau under his aegis announced it was easing a travel warning for the southern Sinai peninsula, offering a possible clue to its location.

Bennett’s upcoming visit will be the first public visit by an Israeli premier since 2011, when former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with president Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh. Netanyahu also reportedly paid a secret, unofficial visit in 2018.

Egypt in recent months has tried to more publicly present its role as the responsible, effective broker between Israel and Hamas. Cairo played a central role in negotiating the ceasefire that ended the May Gaza war between the two sides after 11 days and has worked since to advance a long-term ceasefire as well as a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.

Following the May conflict, Israel initially said that it would only allow basic humanitarian aid into the beleaguered enclave, unless Hamas released two Israeli civilians it has held in captivity for years, along with the remains of two IDF soldiers. It also conditioned aid for rebuilding Gaza on the matter.

As the meeting between Bennett and Sissi approaches, Israel has taken a number of steps to ease restrictions over the Gaza Strip, even as Hamas continues to sanction nightly rioting along the border. Fiery and loud protests were reported along the border Wednesday night for a fifth straight night.

Palestinians protest at night time near the border with Israel, near the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, on August 29, 2021. (Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

Israel announced earlier Wednesday that it expanded the Gaza Strip’s fishing zone to 15 nautical miles — the furthest distance Israel has permitted since the Hamas terror group took control of the enclave in 2007.

In addition, more goods and construction materials will be allowed into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, and an additional 5 million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of water will be allowed into the Strip, whose aquifers have long since deteriorated.

Five thousand more workers will also be allowed into Israel from Gaza — on top of the 2,000 already permitted in — though only those who either had the coronavirus or have been vaccinated will be eligible, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said in a statement.

“These civil steps were approved by the political echelon and are dependent upon the continued preservation of security stability for an extended period. An extension of them will be considered in accordance with a situational assessment,” according to the liaison, formally known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

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