Hamas chief said to arrive in Cairo for meetings with Egyptian officials

Ismail Haniyeh, who has not traveled beyond Gaza and Egypt since 2017, will reportedly leave for Russia and other countries after talks in Egypt’s capital

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

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh attends a meeting with foreign reporters at al-Mat'haf hotel in Gaza City, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/ Adel Hana)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh attends a meeting with foreign reporters at al-Mat'haf hotel in Gaza City, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/ Adel Hana)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on Monday for meetings with Egyptian officials the terror group’s Al-Aqsa TV reported.

Haniyeh last traveled outside of Gaza in February and March 2019, when he spent some 25 days in the Egyptian capital.

“He will hold a number of meetings with Egyptian officials to follow up on many important files pertaining to the Palestinian cause,” the Al-Aqsa TV report said.

Egypt has been a key player in brokering informal ceasefire understandings between terror groups in Gaza, including Hamas, and Israel. The understandings have largely entailed Israel lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza, in exchange for Hamas maintaining relative quiet in the border region between the coastal enclave and the Jewish state.

Israeli officials hold that their limitations on movement seek to prevent the terror groups in Gaza from importing weapons or the means to build them.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad terror group announced on Monday that a high-level delegation led by Ziad al-Nakhala, its secretary-general, will arrive in Cairo later in the day “to hold a number of important meetings at the kind invitation of Egypt.”

The announcement did not clarify whether the Islamic Jihad officials will meet their Egyptian counterparts with Haniyeh.

Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar in Gaza City, June 26, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

The Quds Press news site reported that Haniyeh will travel to Russia, Qatar and Turkey following his meetings in Egypt, citing “well-placed” sources.

The last time Haniyeh traveled beyond Gaza and Egypt was in late 2016 and early 2017, before he was elected Hamas head.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk told the Dar al-Hayat news site in November that Egyptian authorities had barred Haniyeh from traveling outside the Gaza Strip and Egypt for almost three years to prevent him from meeting with their political rivals.

Hamas, which frequently meets with Egyptian intelligence officials, also maintains close ties with countries that Cairo views as foes such as Qatar and Turkey.

Haniyeh lives in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza. Khaled Mashaal, his predecessor, never lived in the West Bank or Gaza while he served as Hamas chairman.

In January, a trip Haniyeh planned to make to Russia to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was postponed. At the time, Abu Marzouk tweeted that he and Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and presidential Middle East envoy, had discussed over the phone “the postponement of the chairman of the Hamas Politburo’s visit to another time because of the [Russian] foreign minister’s busy state of affairs.” Abu Marzouk’s tweet made no mention of Egypt preventing Haniyeh from traveling to Russia.

Egypt controls the only crossing out of the Gaza Strip apart from those between Israel and the territory.

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