Egyptian prime minister to visit Gaza Friday

Despite IDF strikes on Strip, Hisham Kandil will head a high-ranking delegation in support of the Palestinians

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil (photo credit: Youtube image grab)
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil (photo credit: Youtube image grab)

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil will visit Gaza on Friday in solidarity with local residents, Egypt’s official news agency reported Thursday evening.

Kandil, sent personally by President Mohammed Morsi, will head a high-ranking Egyptian delegation aimed at tending to the immediate needs of Gaza residents, according to a report posted on the official Facebook page of Egypt’s presidential spokesman Yasser Ali. A Hamas spokesman, Taher Nunu, confirmed that Kandil will visit Gaza and meet with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

A spokesman for the IDF refused to comment on whether the visit will affect Israeli military operations in Gaza.

Egypt and Israel are officially at peace, though relations between the countries are chilly. The imperiling of an Egyptian minister by an Israeli strike would likely push ties between Jerusalem and Cairo beyond the brink.

Egypt has reacted harshly to operation Pillar of Defense, recalling its ambassador to Tel Aviv Atef Salem just hours after the operation began. Morsi submitted a letter of protest to Israeli ambassador to Cairo Yaakov Amitai and called for swift diplomatic action against Israel in the UN Security Council and the Arab League, based in Cairo.

Morsi called Israel’s military campaign “unacceptable aggression” but avoided sharper condemnations of Israel. According to Egypt’s MENA news agency, he discussed ways to stop the violence with the regents of Jordan and Qatar Thursday evening.

Morsi’s comments were in contrast to the heavy rhetoric against Israel in the past few days by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement from which Morsi emerged. The head of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, blasted Israel as “the project of the devil” during a speech Thursday at an Islamic conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

On Wednesday night Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing around the clock, preparing the hospital at Al-Arish, an Egyptian city located near the Gaza border, to receive Palestinians wounded in the Israeli strikes.

AP contributed to this report 

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