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Shin Bet chief meets Egyptian spymaster to patch up fraying ties — reports

Ronen Bar said to hold talks with Abbas Kamel after Cairo was apparently angered by IDF raid in West Bank shortly after Gaza ceasefire brokered

Head of the Shin Bet security service Ronen Bar leaves his home in Rishpon, central Israel, October 11, 2021. (Flash90)
Head of the Shin Bet security service Ronen Bar leaves his home in Rishpon, central Israel, October 11, 2021. (Flash90)

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar reportedly visited Egypt on Sunday, as Israel sought to repair ties between Jerusalem and Cairo which have apparently become strained since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end fighting in Gaza earlier this month.

Bar’s visit was not confirmed by official sources in Israel or Egypt, but widely reported on by Hebrew-language media.

Senior Israeli officials said that during the trip, Bar met with Egyptian spymaster Abbas Kamel, Hebrew media reported.

The Shin Bet refused to comment on the matter.

Relations between Jerusalem and Cairo are said to have been strained, following Israel’s short-lived round of hostilities with Islamic Jihad in Gaza, due to a misunderstanding regarding steps Israel would take to maintain calm.

Egypt played a key role in brokering the ceasefire. Egypt’s spy service, led by Kamel, has for years served as the main conduit for talks between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups.

According to the Haaretz daily, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was led to believe in a phone call with Prime Minister Yair Lapid that Israel would limit its security operations in the West Bank in the sensitive period following the flareup in Gaza.

But less than 48 hours later, the IDF carried out a raid in Nablus, killing Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander Ibrahim Nabulsi and two others, and wounding dozens more amid widespread fighting in the city. The operation reportedly angered the Egyptian government.

Left, Prime Minister Yair Lapid delivers a message a day after the close of Operation Breaking Dawn, from the Israel Defense Forces’ Tel Aviv headquarters on August 8, 2022. Right, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi delivers a speech during the One Ocean Summit, in Brest, Brittany, February 11, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO; Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

Shortly after the three-day conflict, Egypt’s ambassador to the United Nations, Osama Abdel Khalek tore into Israel, during a speech before the UN Security Council.

While Egypt and other Arab countries that have ties with the Jewish state still traditionally maintain critical lines toward Israel at the UN, the rhetoric employed by Khalek went much further than is generally used publicly by Egyptian officials, particularly in recent years as Israel-Egypt ties have warmed further.

The tongue-lashing also came after Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, made a point of thanking Egypt and Sissi, “who were essential in restoring the calm and stability to our region.”

A similar message was passed along to the Egyptian leader by Prime Minister Yair Lapid when the two spoke on the phone.

Rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists toward Israel, in Gaza City, August 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Tensions with Gaza were sparked when Israeli security forces arrested Bassem Saadi, the leader of the West Bank branch of Islamic Jihad, on August 1, in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

Days later, Israel carried out airstrikes against Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza in response to what the army said was a concrete threat from a terror cell to fire anti-tank missiles across the border at Israeli troops or civilians as revenge for the arrest of Saadi. The strikes were followed by the firing of nearly 1,000 rockets toward Israel, as well as roughly 170 Israeli counterstrikes.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, the death toll from the recent round of fighting in Gaza stood at 48. Israel maintains that some of the deaths were likely due to misfired Islamic Jihad rockets.

In all, more than 300 Palestinians were wounded over three days of fighting, the worst cross-border violence since an 11-day war with Hamas last year.

Jacob Magid and Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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