Egypt has reportedly invited Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas to Cairo for a summit to discuss a long-term Israel-Gaza ceasefire following an Egyptian-brokered truce that recently ended an 11-day military flareup between Israel and Gaza’s rulers, Palestinian terror group Hamas.
The goal of the summit would be to hammer out an agreement on the reconstruction of Gaza as well as a ceasefire deal that would hold long-term and discuss the return of Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers held captive for nearly seven years, Israel’s Kan broadcaster reported (Hebrew) on Wednesday.
IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul were killed in the summer 2014 war with Hamas, while civilian Avera Mengistu was captured after he entered Gaza of his own accord in the same year. Mengistu reportedly suffers from mental health issues. Hisham al-Sayed, a second civilian, entered the Strip in 2015 and has been held there since then.
According to the report, an unnamed Egyptian military official traveled to Israel last week to discuss the initiative but no date for the proposed summit has been set. Kan further reported that Israel set two conditions for its agreement to attend: that the talks with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority be held separately, and that each step in the Gaza reconstruction process be tied to the advancement of the return of the captives.
Israel has over the years worked to secure the release of the soldiers’ bodies and the civilians, often using the Egyptian military, which maintains ties to both Jerusalem and Hamas, as an intermediary. Hamas has sought, in exchange, the release of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails — both members of Hamas and of other terror groups. Some of the prisoners had already been freed during the 2011 prisoner exchange deal, but were re-arrested during a 2014 crackdown on the terror group in the West Bank following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers.
Currently, diplomatic efforts are underway to solidify the fragile Egypt-brokered truce that halted the recent fighting, with plans to rebuild the Gaza Strip where Israeli airstrikes damaged infrastructure and leveled buildings.
Cairo has sent delegations to both Tel Aviv and Gaza to watch over the implementation of the ceasefire, and has also been coordinating international relief and reconstruction aid for the enclave, which has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade for nearly 15 years to prevent Hamas from building terror infrastructure.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Jordan on Wednesday, wrapping up a two-day Mideast tour that aimed to shore up the ceasefire.
After meeting earlier with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — whom he praised for helping bring an end to the intense violence “relatively quickly” — he flew to Jordan, where half of the 10 million-strong population is of Palestinian origin.
Blinken met King Abdullah II, following two days of regional talks — including with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders — to throw Washington’s support behind the truce.
“Securing the ceasefire was important, particularly because of the devastating toll violence took on families on both sides,” Blinken told reporters after meeting with the Jordanian monarch in Amman, his final stop.
“We see the ceasefire not as an end, but as a beginning of something to build on.”
Following talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as give millions in aid for the war-battered Gaza Strip.
The announcements signaled a break with US policy under former president Donald Trump, who had shuttered the diplomatic mission for Palestinians in 2019 and slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.
In the long term, Blinken evoked the “possibility of resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to truly assure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, and of course to give the Palestinians the state they’re entitled to.”
After meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from the reconstruction aid.
Hamas political chief Yahya Sinwar vowed Wednesday not to take “a single cent” of the aid, insisting that “we have never taken a cent in the past.”
On Wednesday, after meeting with Sissi, Blinken later said that both “believe strongly that Palestinians and Israelis deserve equally to live in safety and security,” and that “Egypt is vital to these aspirations.”
Unlike the United States and many European governments, which boycott the Hamas terror group, Egypt maintains regular contacts.
Last week, Sissi pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza.
Blinken said Wednesday the US was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to Palestinians, including $250 million announced in March and April.
On top of that, the administration intended to provide $75 million in aid to the Palestinians, as well as $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and nearly $33 million for an emergency humanitarian appeal by the UN.
The latest military escalation started when Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem after clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount.
Israeli security forces had also sought to quell protests against the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish families.
Rocket and other projectile fire from Gaza claimed 13 lives in Israel, including one child and teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian national and two Thai workers, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.
Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza said. Israel says over 200 of those killed were terror operatives. It says some of the civilian fatalities were caused by rocket fire that fell short and landed in the Strip.