Haniyeh hosts senior Egyptian intelligence officials in Gaza
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Haniyeh hosts senior Egyptian intelligence officials in Gaza

Meetings said to address efforts at reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, as well as a possible truce with Israel

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

In this file photo taken on January 23, 2018 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in Gaza City (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
In this file photo taken on January 23, 2018 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech in Gaza City (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hamas’s political chief, Ismail Haniyeh, received a delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, a day after Egyptian General Intelligence Services head Abbas Kamel postponed a planned visit to the coastal enclave, the West Bank, and Israel.

The Egyptian delegation that met Haniyeh included Ayman Badia, the deputy chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services; Ahmad Abdelkhaliq, the official in charge of the Palestinian file in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services; and Hamam Abu Zeid, another senior Egyptian intelligence official, al-Risala, a Hamas-linked newspaper, reported.

The report said the Egyptian delegation met with Haniyeh to discuss intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

Egypt has recently made efforts to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, the movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, hosting leaders from the two rival factions for separate talks in Cairo in the past month.

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 PA from the territory in 2007.

In this Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 photo, a Palestinian boy sits atop a wall with an elephant painting in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The Al-Risala report said the Egyptian delegation also met with Haniyeh to talk about a possible ceasefire between the terror group and Israel.

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 long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

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.

On Wednesday, amid a sharp uptick in cross-border violence near the Strip, Kamel, the Egyptian intelligence chief, postponed his planned visit to Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. He was expected to arrive to the region on Thursday for meetings with Hamas, Palestinian Authority, and Israeli officials, according to reports.

In the predawn hours of Wednesday, one rocket was fired from Gaza at the southern city of Beersheba and a second was launched toward the Tel Aviv area, but landed in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Egyptian head of Intelligence 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)

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.

A Palestinian source told Israel Radio 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 President Vladimir Putin.

He returned to Egypt late Wednesday evening.

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