Egyptian intelligence officials entered the Gaza Strip on Monday for talks on a ceasefire between Israel and armed groups in the coastal enclave and Palestinian reconciliation, according to a report.
The officials entered through the Erez crossing along the northeastern border between Israel and Gaza, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center reported.
Pictures shared on Twitter showed Gaza-based officials greeting Ahmed Abdelkahliq, the official in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services responsible for the Palestinian file, and Hamam Abu Zeid, another high-ranking official in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services, after they crossed into the Strip.
In the past month, Abdelkhaliq and Abu Zeid have met with Hamas and other officials in Gaza several times.
— الترا فلسطين (@palestineultra) November 5, 2018
The Egyptian intelligence officials were expected to meet leaders of the Palestinian factions to discuss a ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in Gaza, the Palestinian Information Center Report said.
Egypt, alongside United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has recently played a key role in attempts to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in the Strip.
Arabic media reports have said that if achieved, a ceasefire would include at least a partial lifting of Israel’s restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza.
Israel holds that its restrictions on movement serve security purposes including preventing the entry of weapons into the Strip.
Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have said intra-Palestinian reconciliation should precede any possible ceasefire. They have also contended that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the sole party with the legitimacy to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel.
On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi told a conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, “We are keen to calm the situation down as much as possible in the Gaza Strip because there are two million people there.”
Egyptian intelligence officials were present during Palestinian border protests on Friday, Deputy Hamas Chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya told the London-based Al-Ghad TV over the weekend.
Friday’s rally was largely peaceful. Hayya said the protests were scaled down to give the efforts to achieve a ceasefire a chance, according to the Associated Press.
The protests, which have included many violent acts, have taken place weekly since March 30. Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands which are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.
Hayya also suggested the efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had been making progress.
“Their success is becoming visible in the horizon,” he told Al-Ghad TV, referring to the efforts to conclude a ceasefire.
The Egyptian intelligence officials were also expected to meet leaders of the Palestinian factions in Gaza to discuss Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, the Palestinian Information Center report said.
Egypt has recently made efforts to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, meeting with leaders from the two rival parties for separate talks in the past several weeks.
In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered deal to advance reconciliation and bring the West Bank and Gaza under one government, but they failed to implement it.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory in 2007.