Egypt's intelligence chief holds truce talks with Hamas in Gaza

Egyptian delegation continues mediating ceasefire between the Palestinian militant group and Israel

Yahya Sinwar, second seated from right, the top Hamas leader in Gaza, and the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, Maj Gen Abbas Kamel, foreground, meet in Gaza city. AP
Yahya Sinwar, second seated from right, the top Hamas leader in Gaza, and the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, Maj Gen Abbas Kamel, foreground, meet in Gaza city. AP

Egypt's intelligence chief met Hamas leaders in Gaza on Monday to try to bolster a ceasefire between the Palestinian militant group and Israel.

Maj Gen Abbas Kamel, head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, also discussed reconstruction plans following recent hostilities, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.

The visit was the first by an Egyptian intelligence chief to the enclave since the early 2000s.

"The discussion is focused on ways to cement the calm and Gaza reconstruction plans following the recent Israeli aggression," said a Hamas official.

Hamas officials, led by Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, would urge Cairo to pressure Israel to stop "its assaults against our people in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah," the official said.

Eleven days of fighting between Israel and Hamas erupted on May 10.

This came amid confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police around Al Aqsa Mosque compound – Islam's third most holy site – in Jerusalem and plans to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in the city, to make way for Jewish settlers.

Medical officials in Gaza said 253 Palestinians were killed during the fighting, most by Israeli air strikes.

Palestinian rockets and missiles killed 13 people in Israel, the Israeli medical service said.

On Monday, large posters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Egyptian flags decorated streets across Gaza to greet Mr Kamel.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the entrance to Gaza waving Egyptian flags as his motorcade drove by.

Mr Kamel's visit is seen as an effort by Cairo to regain a more vital role in mediation between Israel and Hamas and revive the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Mr El Sisi directed Egyptian officials to continue efforts and meetings to solve the problem of prisoners and missing people between Israel and Hamas, Egypt's state news agency Mena reported on Sunday.

Following the meeting with Mr Kamel in Gaza, Mr Sinwar said "there is a real chance for progress to be made" on resolving the issue of prisoners, though he added that Hamas demanded those negotiations be held separately from the ceasefire talks.

Mr Kamel was expected to announce plans by Cairo to fund a housing project in the territory, Hamas sources said.

Egypt has said it would allocate $500 million to fund the rebuilding of areas devastated by Israeli bombing.

Gaza's housing ministry said 1,500 housing units were completely destroyed during the bombardment , another 1,500 housing units had been damaged beyond repair, and 17,000 others suffered partial damage.

A ministry official put the cost of rebuilding at $150 million.

On Sunday, Mr Kamel met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu said his meeting dealt with regional security issues and ways to prevent Hamas from siphoning off civilian aid to strengthen its capabilities.

Mr Kamel also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday and handed him a message from Mr El Sisi affirming Cairo's support for Palestinians and Mr Abbas, Mena said.

Updated: June 2, 2021 10:51 PM

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