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New Shin Bet chief visits Egypt for talks with spymaster — reports

Ronen Bar said to head to Cairo with other officials to discuss long-term truce and potential prisoner exchange with Hamas

Ronen Bar, the new head of the Shin Bet, leaves his home in Rishpon on October 11, 2021. (Flash90)
Ronen Bar, the new head of the Shin Bet, leaves his home in Rishpon on October 11, 2021. (Flash90)

The new head of the Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar, traveled to Egypt on Sunday for talks with his Egyptian counterpart, spymaster Abbas Kamel, according to Hebrew media reports.

Bar was reportedly part of an Israeli delegation to Cairo that also included Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s national security adviser, Eyal Hulata.

The meeting, like previous ones in recent months, was aimed at discussing the situation in the Gaza Strip, and the continuation of a potential comprehensive long-term truce process with the Hamas terror group.

The topic of Egyptian mediation regarding a possible prisoner swap between the terror group and Israel was also expected to be discussed in the meeting, according to reports.

It was Bar’s first trip to Egypt since being approved as the security service’s new leader last month.

There was no immediate statement from the Shin Bet or the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the trip.

Egyptian intelligence chief 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)

Earlier this month, Turkish state media reported that Hamas and Egypt advanced agreements to strengthen the ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza-ruling terror group, days after senior Hamas officials met with Egyptian intelligence in Cairo.

Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect negotiations, moderated by Egypt, on stabilizing the fragile ceasefire since the 11-day battle between the two sides in May. Israel has vowed not to allow a full reconstruction of Gaza without a prisoner swap between the two sides.

Two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers are currently being held in Gaza. Avraham Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed entered the Strip of their own accord, and their families say they suffer from mental illness. Hamas is also holding the bodies of Oren Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers who were killed in the Strip during the 2014 Gaza war.

Clockwise from top left: Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu, Hadar Goldin and Hisham al-Sayed. (Flash 90/Courtesy)

Israel has, over the years, worked to secure the release of the soldiers’ bodies and the civilians, often using the Egyptian military, which maintains ties with both Jerusalem and Hamas, as an intermediary.

Hamas has sought, in exchange, the release of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails — members of Hamas and of other terror groups.

Some of the prisoners were freed during the 2011 prisoner exchange deal but re-arrested during a 2014 crackdown on the terror group in the West Bank following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed the prisoner exchange issue with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during a recent state visit to Sharm el-Sheikh.

For months, Israeli officials vowed that they would not allow a full reconstruction of Gaza without a prisoner swap. Despite the absence of an agreement, however, Israel has slowly relaxed the additional sanctions following low-level exchanges of fire with Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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