Hamas officials head to Cairo as Egypt bids to restore Gaza calm

After rockets are fired from Gaza and Israel retaliates, senior members of terror group to meet top Egyptian intelligence officials

Ismail Haniyeh, right, the head of the Hamas political bureau, shakes hands with his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, upon his arrival in Gaza from Cairo, Egypt, in Gaza City, August 2, 2018. (Mohammad Austaz/Hamas Media Office via AP)
Illustrative: In this photo Ismail Haniyeh, right, the head of the Hamas political bureau, shakes hands with his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, upon his arrival in Gaza from Cairo, Egypt, in Gaza City, August 2, 2018. (Mohammad Austaz/Hamas Media Office via AP)

As tensions rise between Israel and the Gaza Strip amid a flurry of rocket attacks and mutual threats, Egyptian officials invited Hamas leaders to Cairo for talks aimed at restoring calm.

Two top Hamas officials, Rawhi Mushtaha and Tawfik Abu Naim, are leading the delegation, which was slated to leave Gaza late on Monday, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported.

They will meet senior Egyptian intelligence officials, the report said.

A delegation from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group is expected to head to Cairo in the coming days as well.

Since the start of August, an uptick in rocket fire and attempts by Palestinian gunmen to cross from Gaza into Israel have been met with IDF airstrikes on Hamas military targets, threatening a fragile ceasefire between Israel and the ruling terror group.

In an Arabic-language video, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun warns Palestinians not to approach the Gaza security fence, says Israel’s ‘patience has run out,’ ahead of expected border riots, on November 15, 2018. (Screen capture)

On Sunday night, three rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, causing some damage but no injuries. The rockets prompted reprisal Israeli strikes, and on Monday, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians announced it had reduced fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant.

Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun — known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — said the downsizing of the shipments was ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister.

Later Monday, Abu Rukun warned Gaza residents that the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group was actively trying to ignite a fresh war in the region.

In an Arabic-language statement, he told Gazans they would bear the brunt of the suffering if another round of fighting broke out.

“Hostile elements near and far, attempting to ignite a war, are dragging you into violence and destroying the stability and security of your home,” Abu Rukun said according to an English translation provided by his office.

The IDF launches flares near the border east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 22, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“Islamic Jihad, in the service of Iran, is causing destabilization again and again and harming the security of the area,” he said. “You are the ones who will suffer the consequences.”

The rocket attack came amid heightened tensions throughout the Middle East, as Israel squared off against Iran and its proxies in multiple countries.

Tehran provides tens of millions of dollars each year to terror groups in the Gaza Strip, mainly to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which rules the enclave.

Hamas has denied it directed the latest rocket fire.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli forces near the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on August 16, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Israel says it holds the terror group that rules Gaza responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory. After rockets were fired at southern Israel last Wednesday and Thursday night, the IDF blamed Islamic Jihad for the attacks and called for Hamas to rein in the terror group.

On Friday, Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi entered Gaza, carrying his latest delivery of cash from Doha as part of an unofficial ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Distribution of the funds began Sunday morning.

The payments are part of a wider agreement brokered by UN and Egyptian officials to end several violent flareups in recent months between Israel and Hamas, which have fought three wars since 2008, and to help stabilize the territory and prevent a humanitarian collapse.

AFP and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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