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Progress reported in Gaza ceasefire talks as senior Hamas, Egypt officials meet

Gaza leaders, including chief Ismail Haniyeh, gathered in Cairo Sunday for meetings with Egyptian intelligence

Yahya Sinwar (right), the Hamas terror group's leader in the Gaza Strip, sits with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (center), as they meet the Head of the Central Elections Commission, Hanna Nasser, in Gaza City, on October 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Yahya Sinwar (right), the Hamas terror group's leader in the Gaza Strip, sits with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (center), as they meet the Head of the Central Elections Commission, Hanna Nasser, in Gaza City, on October 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

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

The terror group and Egypt saw “progress” in “understandings to stabilize the truce in Gaza, speed up the pace of reconstruction, and efforts to ease the siege,” according to the Anadolu news agency.

In a rare scene, senior Hamas officials, including Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, gathered in Cairo on Sunday night for the current round of talks with Egyptian intelligence officials aimed at procuring a long-term ceasefire with Israel.

An official in Hamas told The Times of Israel that some movement in the talks has been “expected,” but added: “These meetings are often just talk. But obligations are later borne out if each side does what it has pledged to do.”

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.

The official suggested that there could have been other reasons for the Hamas leadership gathering. The terror group recently concluded its internal elections, which saw Haniyeh win a second four-year term as Hamas’ leader.

The extended Cairo meeting provided “an opportunity for everyone to meet. Within the overarching political agenda, it connects to the organizational agenda,” the Hamas official said.

Israel leveled higher restrictions on Gaza for months following the 11-day conflict, effectively preventing substantial reconstruction of the battered enclave.

Gaza has been tightly blockaded by both Israel and Egypt for a decade and a half. Both countries say that allowing freer movement of goods and people could strengthen Hamas.

The Hamas source told Anadolu that the sides discussed a possible prisoner swap between the terror group and Israel, but did not make any meaningful headway.

Hamas currently holds two living Israeli civilians as prisoners in Gaza — Avner Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. The terror group is also holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war: Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.

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.

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