Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip on Thursday for meetings with Hamas leaders on a long-term truce agreement with Israel, after a major flareup in violence this week sparked fears of a fresh war between the sides.
The Egyptian delegation, headed by Ahmed Abdelkhaliq — who is in charge of the Palestinian file in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services — entered Gaza through the Erez border crossing with Israel.
They are expected to remain in Gaza through Friday to observe weekly clashes along the border that have threatened to ignite a full-scale military conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Ynet news site reported.
Though the “March of Return” protests have diminished somewhat in intensity in recent weeks as Egypt works to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas, the relative calm was shattered this week after terror groups in the Strip launched over 460 rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory on Monday and Tuesday.
Israel struck over 160 sites connected to Hamas and the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad in response to the rocket fire, which came after a firefight during an Israeli operation in Gaza in which a special operations officer and seven Palestinian terrorists were killed.
The fighting, which was the most serious since the 2014 Gaza war, came to an end on Tuesday after terror groups in Gaza announced a ceasefire.
The ceasefire, which Israel has been loathe to officially recognize, has been condemned by many Israelis and was cited by Avigdor Liberman in his decision to resign as defense minister on Wednesday.
The Hamas-led protests, which began in March, have seen thousands of acres of forest and farmland burned by incendiary devices carried by balloons and kites launched from the coastal enclave, as well as attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the security fence.
The months-long violence has included a number of exchanges of fire between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups that have included rocket barrages from the Strip and retaliatory Israeli strikes, followed by ceasefires unilaterally declared by Hamas and other Palestinian factions.