Egypt sending mediators to Gaza in bid to save faltering unity deal — report
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Egypt sending mediators to Gaza in bid to save faltering unity deal — report

Delegation from Cairo stepping up pressure to implement reconciliation agreement between Hamas and its West Bank rival, Fatah

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri, left, of Hamas shake hands after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ostensibly ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)
Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri, left, of Hamas shake hands after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ostensibly ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Egyptian officials are scheduled to arrive in Gaza soon to discuss the faltering reconciliation agreement between the Strip’s rulers and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, as well as the recent flare-up of violence along the border with Israel.

Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel, who visited Israel and Ramallah earlier this week, decided to send an Egyptian delegation to the Gaza Strip, the London-based Al Hayat newspaper reported Saturday.

A senior Egyptian security delegation spent weeks in the Gaza Strip earlier this year as part of Cairo’s effort to prevent the downfall of the reconciliation agreement that was signed between Fatah and its political rival, Hamas.

A team of Egyptian mediators left Gaza last month after the attempted assassination of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Since then, tensions between Hamas and Fatah have been mounting, especially after PA President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to take “legal, financial and national” measures against Hamas leaders and the Gaza Strip.

According to the reports, the Egyptians have also been pressuring Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza to calm tensions along the border with Israel.

Abbas told the top Egyptian official during their meeting in Ramallah the only solution to the crisis with Hamas was to allow the PA to assume full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, the paper said, citing diplomatic sources.

Hamas personnel inspect the site of an explosion that occurred as the convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel, on the main road in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, on March 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Abbas, according to the report, said his government was prepared to solve the issue of payments to thousands of civil servants in the Gaza Strip, but only after Hamas allowed it to assume its responsibilities there “without delay.”

The PA leader reportedly told the Egyptian intelligence chief that his government was not prepared to return to the old format of negotiations with Hamas over the “status of each employee and institution.”

The Egyptians are said to be worried about Abbas’s intention to impose new sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Abbas is reported to have told the senior Egyptian official that the sanctions would be taken “at the right time, and not now.”

Abbas said he was willing to give the Egyptians a “last chance” to persuade Hamas to hand control of the Gaza Strip over to the PA government.

Salah Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, was quoted Friday as saying that his group would not relinquish control over the Gaza Strip, as demanded by Abbas. “Reconciliation means political partnership,” he said in an interview with a Jordanian television station. “Regrettably, some understood the reconciliation as meaning that only one side hands something over to the other side.”

The report came as tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered along the Gaza border, burning tires and throwing firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and live fire, the army and witnesses said, as Palestinians held a second “March of Return” protest.

The Palestinians’ envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour told reporters in New York late Friday that nine Gazans were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the clashes.

After the US torpedoed a Security Council statement calling for an independent investigation into the Palestinian deaths, the Arab League’s UN Ambassador said Arab ministers would discuss options to pursue the issue at a meeting in Saudi Arabia next week.

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