Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh embarked on his first trip outside the Gaza Strip on Saturday, four months after being elected as the Palestinian terror group’s new chief, leading a delegation of Hamas officials to Egypt for security talks.
Haniyeh arrived in Cairo Saturday afternoon for a series of meetings with Egyptian security. Senior Hamas officials based abroad, including Moussa Abu Marzouk and Saleh al-Arouri, were part of the delegation.
Talks were set to focus on understandings reached in recent months between Hamas and Egyptian intelligence on border security, according to a report in the Hebrew daily Ynet.
Hamas has long been accused by the Egyptian government of aiding the Islamic insurgency in Egypt’s restive North Sinai region. In recent months, Hamas has beefed up security along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, seeking to assure Cairo that it is fighting IS sympathizers.
In exchange, according to the report, Egypt was set to alleviate its blockade of Gaza including allowing increased transfer of goods.
The talks come weeks after a suicide bomber killed a Hamas guard in southern Gaza when forces tried to stop him from infiltrating into Egypt, in what sources described as a rare attack against the Islamist group. The bombing was the first time that a Palestinian had set off a suicide bomb against Hamas forces.
According to the report, it was not yet clear if the Hamas-Egypt meetings would include talks of the negotiations surrounding a possible prisoner exchange with Israel of three Israeli civilians and the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed three years ago during Operation Protective Edge.
Hamas is believed to be detaining three Israelis — Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed as well as Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima — all of whom entered the enclave of their own accord over the past several years — as well as holding the bodies of two IDF soldiers — Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin — who were killed during the 2014 summer war between Israel and the terror group. Mengistu and Sayed are both said to suffer from mental illness.