The head of Egyptian intelligence, Major General Abbas Kamel, came to Tel Aviv on Wednesday to discuss the final details of a reported truce agreement aimed at calming weeks of border clashes and violent exchanges between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Kamel’s visit was first reported by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, and later confirmed by an Israeli government official, who said the Egyptian intelligence chief met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Bet security agency.
Kamel was in Israel as a guest of National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, the official said.
Al Hayat also reported that Kamel was scheduled to meet Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, citing Palestinian sources.
In addition to halting the recent fighting, the Egypt-brokered plan includes humanitarian projects for Gaza, and future indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas for the exchange of prisoners, the newspaper reported.
Hamas last week said it reached a ceasefire with Israel brokered by Egypt and the United Nations to end the flareup in violence, though this was denied by Israel. The agreement will reportedly see Hamas halt attacks in exchange for the opening of border terminals and an expanded fishing zone.
The violence along the border has included airborne arson attacks on Israel, rocket fire at southern Israel, clashes and retaliatory air strikes on Hamas targets.
Jerusalem has officially been mum on the talks with Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group which seized control of the Strip in 2007 from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and seeks to destroy Israel.
However local leaders in communities near the Gaza border and hawkish politicians on the national stage have been pushing the government and army to take a harder line toward Hamas, even at the risk of war, due to fears the almost daily airborne arson attacks and other cross-border violence will return if Israel does not take expanded military action.
Since Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party failed to implement an Egyptian-sponsored unity deal, which they signed in October 2017, reconciliation efforts between the rivals have been at a standstill.
On Wednesday Abbas declared Hamas was not serious about unity talks and accused US officials of lying about their intentions to aid the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Abbas made the comments in a televised speech at the start of a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council, the PLO’s second highest decision-making body, in Ramallah.
“Hamas principally does not have intentions to achieve reconciliation,” Abbas said.
He also asserted that US officials were being dishonest when they recently stated that they want to help Palestinians in Gaza by mitigating the dire humanitarian situation in the Strip.
“I swear to God, they are liars,” he said of US officials.
Two high-level delegations from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — another Gaza terror group — are in Cairo along with representatives from smaller factions, according to al-Hayat.
On Wednesday, Israel re-opened the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing and an expanded fishing zone off the Gaza coast, after the border region saw several days of relative quiet.
The Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza had been closed for over a month as punishment for the regular violence along the border, bouts of rocket fire and daily incendiary kite and balloon attacks since March 30, the start of the “March of Return” protests, a series of demonstrations — often violent — along the Gaza security fence.
The arson attacks started fires which have burned thousands of acres of farmland and countryside causing millions of shekels in damage.
Last Wednesday and Thursday saw a significant confrontation between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, with some 200 rockets and mortar shells launched from the Strip and over 150 retaliatory bombing raids by the Israel Defense Forces.
Though both sides abided by a de facto ceasefire as it related to exchanges of fire, thousands of residents of the Strip took part in riots along the border on Friday. Three people, one of them reportedly a medic, were killed by IDF gunfire during clashes on the fence.
Hamas is believed to be holding two Israeli citizens who entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord, as well as the remains of two IDF soldiers who were killed during the summer 2014 war between Hamas and Israel. Hamas demands the release of prisoners held in Israel in exchange for the soldiers’ remains, a proposal Jerusalem has so far rejected.