Israeli delegation said to land in Cairo ahead of Fatah-Hamas talks

Palestinian rivals launch Egyptian-backed reconciliation negotiations, which have been strongly denounced by Netanyahu

Hamas's leader Ismail Haniyeh (C-R) meets with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Khalid Fawzi at the latter's office in Gaza City on October 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
Hamas's leader Ismail Haniyeh (C-R) meets with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Khalid Fawzi at the latter's office in Gaza City on October 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

An Israeli delegation flew into Cairo on Tuesday to conduct talks with high-ranking Egyptian officials ahead of Palestinian reconciliation talks in Egypt’s capital, according to Arabic media reports.

Although there was no word on the content of the discussions, the reports came on the same day unity talks were launched in Egypt between Hamas and Fatah, as the Palestinian Authority seeks to regain sovereignty over the Gaza Strip after a decade of Hamas rule.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the reconciliation efforts, saying any future Palestinian government must disband the Hamas terror group’s armed wing and sever its ties with Iran.

The talks follow a key breakthrough last week, when Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Hamas-run Gaza for the first time since 2015 and his ministers officially took control of government departments there.

Despite Netanyahu’s opposition, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said on Sunday the Egypt-backed reconciliation talks between the PA and Hamas are “preparation” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Sissi, who last month met with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, has stressed that he believes reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas could pave the way for Middle East peace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, right, in New York on September 19, 2017 (Avi Ohayun)

“The dialogue committee for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas started work under Egyptian sponsorship,” a delegate from the Hamas terror group told AFP.

The talks “began in the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence to examine the files to enable a Palestinian national unity government to work in the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Azzam al-Ahmad, who heads the Fatah delegation, told AFP earlier that the main point of discussion would be “empowering the government in Gaza.”

Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi said the talks were also meant to pave the way for presidential and legislative elections, according to the official Wafa news agency.

The Islamists of the Hamas terror group and the West Bank-based Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been at odds since they fought a near civil war in 2007.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are seen together at Haniyeh’s office in Gaza City on October 3, 2017.(AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

The split has complicated any potential peace negotiations with Israel, as Hamas remains committed to the Jewish state’s destruction and has vowed it will not hand over its arsenal as part of a reconciliation deal with the PA.

Multiple previous attempts at reconciliation have failed but the latest Egyptian-led push received a major boost last month when Hamas agreed to cede civil power in Gaza.

The two sides remain sharply at odds, however, over the future of Hamas’s 25,000-strong armed wing, which the terror group says is nonnegotiable.

An Egyptian intelligence official told the Haaretz daily the talks would not initially deal with issues such as the future of Hamas’ military arm, but rather focus on matters such as the management of civil services in Gaza.

Senior figures in the Fatah delegation include intelligence chief Majed Faraj and Fayez Abu Eita, a party leader in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian official news agency Wafa said.

Newly appointed Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Aruri, who in recent years served as the terror group’s head of West Bank operations, and the organization’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar will lead the Hamas delegation, a spokesman said.

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