Egyptian intel chief said to postpone trip to region amid Gaza tensions
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Egyptian intel chief said to postpone trip to region amid Gaza tensions

Delay comes after border flareup, but Egyptians say Abbas Kamel putting off visit to Gaza, West Bank and Israel in order to accompany Sissi to Russia, according to report

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel attends a meeting of Egyptian and Sudanese foreign ministers and heads of intelligence at Tahrir Palace, in Cairo, Egypt, February 8, 2018. (Khaled Elfiqi/Pool photo via AP)
Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel attends a meeting of Egyptian and Sudanese foreign ministers and heads of intelligence at Tahrir Palace, in Cairo, Egypt, February 8, 2018. (Khaled Elfiqi/Pool photo via AP)

Egyptian General Intelligence Services chief Abbas Kamel postponed his visit to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel Wednesday, after a sharp uptick in cross-border violence near the Strip.

Kamel was expected to arrive to the region on Thursday for meetings with Hamas, Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials, according to reports.

An Israeli official told Hebrew-language media that Kamel had postponed the trip, and a Hamas official expressed dismay over the cancellation.

A Palestinian source told Israel’s Kan state broadcaster that Egyptian officials called and said a new date for Kamel’s visit would be set in the coming days, after Wednesday saw rockets fired from the Strip at Israel, and at least 20 IDF airstrikes in response.

In the predawn hours of Wednesday, one rocket was fired from Gaza at the southern city Beersheba and a second from the Strip was launched into the Mediterranean Sea near Tel Aviv, according to the Israel Defense Forces. 

Smoke billows following an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on October 17, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

In the hours after the rocket fire, Israeli fighter jets bombed some 20 targets in Gaza, the army said. One Palestinian was killed, apparently while attempting to fire a rocket at Israel, and several others were reported wounded.

The Palestinian source said that “the official reason” the Egyptian officials gave for Kamel postponing his visit was that he is accompanying Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi on his trip to Russia which is lasting longer than planned. 

Sissi was in Russia Tuesday and Wednesday, where he delivered a speech to part of the Russian parliament and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

It is not clear when Sissi is expected to depart Russia. 

Egypt, together with United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has recently played a key role in attempting to broker a ceasefire between Israel and armed groups in Gaza. Kamel is said to be leading mediation efforts for Cairo.

Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, tweeted that “we regret that the visit of the Minister Abbas Kamel to both Gaza and Ramallah was canceled.”

Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian officials contacted by The Times of Israel could not immediately confirm that Kamel’s visit had been postponed. 

On Wednesday evening, an Egyptian security delegation led by Ahmed Abdelkhaliq, the official in charge of the Palestinian file in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services, exited Gaza through the Erez crossing, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center reported.

The security delegation arrived in Gaza on Tuesday.

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