Egyptian security officials have held talks with Palestinian leaders in recent days, in part to prevent a new flareup of tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said Sunday.
The Egyptian delegation, led by deputy intelligence chief Ayman Badie, was in the Gaza Strip on Friday and Saturday and the West Bank on Saturday, the officials said.
A statement on Saturday from the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group said the discussions included talks on “understandings with the enemy” — a reference to a fragile ceasefire with Israel tested in recent days.
Contacted on Sunday, a Hamas official said the movement did not want to comment beyond its official statements.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with the delegation in Ramallah on Saturday on the Gaza-Israel ceasefire and attempts to heal the long-existing division between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah, official PA news agency WAFA said.
— وكالة شهاب (@ShehabAgency) July 13, 2019
Fresh tensions were feared after Israel shot dead a Hamas field commander on Thursday along the border with the Gaza Strip, prompting the Islamist terror organization to vow revenge.
Israel later signaled it had fired in error, saying an initial inquiry showed the Hamas member, Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, had been erroneously identified by soldiers as an armed terrorist, but was apparently an operative trying to stop Palestinian youths from breaching the security fence.
On Friday night, Israel’s military said two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, but no damage or injuries were reported. Uncharacteristically, the Israel Defense Forces has so far not responded to the attack.
Earlier in the day, at least 33 Palestinians were shot and wounded during weekly demonstrations and clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza border, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Under the fragile ceasefire brokered by Egyptian and UN officials following a severe flareup in May, Israel is meant to ease aspects of its blockade on the Strip in exchange for relative calm. Israel maintains that the blockade is necessary to prevent arms from entering Gaza that could be used in attacks against it.
Al-Adham’s death threatened to spark another round of large-scale violence between Israel and terror groups in Gaza. Throughout the past year and a half, the two sides have fought several bouts — with terror groups firing mortar shells, rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and the IDF retaliating with airstrikes — often sparked by smaller incidents along the border.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, most recently in 2014.