Netanyahu reportedly had secret talks on Gaza with Sissi in Egypt in May
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Netanyahu reportedly had secret talks on Gaza with Sissi in Egypt in May

Leaders said to have discussed easing blockade in exchange for ceasefire, PA assuming control of Strip and return of Israelis held by Hamas

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly traveled to Egypt in May to meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Channel 10 news reported Monday.

Quoting unnamed American officials, the reports said the focus of the trip was to discuss an arrangement in the Gaza Strip that would see the return of the Palestinian Authority to the coastal enclave, a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the easing of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades on the Strip and steps to advance humanitarian projects there.

They also discussed returning the Israeli citizens and bodies of two soldiers being held by Hamas, which currently rules Gaza, Channel 10 reported, as well as the Trump administration’s peace plan, which has still not been made public.

During the meeting, Sissi stressed the need for the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza, even if this done gradually and did not include the Hamas terror group giving up its weapons as a precondition. The Egyptian president said Israel, Arab states and the international community must pressure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to do so, according to the report.

According to the report, Netanyahu was accompanied by a very small team of advisers and security personnel. He was only in Cairo for a few hours, and joined Sissi in eating the iftar meal concluding the days Ramadan fast before flying back to Jerusalem.

The report said the trip took place on May 22 and that most ministers in the security cabinet were not aware of the meeting between the leaders.

Since then there have been several flareups of violence, with Hamas and other terror groups firing hundreds of rockets and mortars in to Israel and Israel hitting dozens of Hamas posts in Gaza.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot next to burning tires during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Netanyahu on Sunday warned Hamas that Israel will continue to operate against the terrorism stemming from the Gaza Strip, apparently confirming that no official ceasefire agreement had been reached with the terrorist group.

“We are in the midst of a campaign against terror in Gaza. It entails an exchange of blows; it will not end in one strike. Our demand is clear – a complete ceasefire. We will not suffice with less than this,” said Netanyahu.

A female Palestinian protester holds a slingshot during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Said KHATIB)

In addition to the rocket fire, since March, there have been near-weekly, violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, leading to the most serious escalation between the two sides since the 2014 war.

The deadly clashes have seen Israeli security forces facing gunfire, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and efforts — sometimes successful — to damage or penetrate the border fence. Last month, an Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper.

Over 160 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the “March of Return” protests on March 30. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

Southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza in recent months. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

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