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Egypt’s intelligence chief meets with Hamas leaders in Gaza for truce talks

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Egypt’s intelligence chief met Hamas leaders in Gaza on Monday in an effort to bolster a ceasefire between the Palestinian militant group and Israel and to discuss reconstruction plans following the recent hostilities, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.

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

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“The discussion is focused on ways to cement the calm and Gaza reconstruction plans following the recent Israeli aggression,” said a Hamas official, who asked not to be named.

Hamas officials, led by Gaza chief Yehya al-Sinwar, would urge Cairo to pressure Israel to stop “its assaults against our people in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah,” he said.

Eleven days of fighting between Israel and Hamas erupted on May 10 amid Israeli police raids around the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and plans to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah district of the city to make way for Jewish settlers.

Gaza medical officials said Israeli airstrikes killed 253 Palestinians. Rockets and missiles fired from Gaza killed 13 people in Israel.

Smoke and flames rise above a building during Israeli air strikes, amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City May 17, 2021. (Reuters)
Smoke and flames rise above a building during Israeli air strikes, amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City May 17, 2021. (Reuters)

Large posters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egyptian flags decorated streets across the enclave to greet intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. Hundreds of people lined up outside the entrance to Gaza waving Egyptian flags as his motorcade drove by.

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 Israel-Palestinian peace process.

He was also expected to announce plans by Cairo to build a housing city in the enclave, the official said.

Gaza’s housing ministry said 1,500 housing units were completely destroyed during the fighting, 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.

Palestinian children walk amidst the rubble of buildings, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on May 21, 2021. (Reuters)
Palestinian children walk amidst the rubble of buildings, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on May 21, 2021. (Reuters)

On Sunday, Kamel met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu said his meeting dealt with regional security issues and ways to prevent Hamas from siphoning off civilian aid to strengthen its capabilities.

Kamel also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday and handed him a message from Sisi affirming Cairo’s support for Palestinians and Abbas, state news agency MENA said.

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