Hamas chief Haniyeh in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials to stop Israeli aggression on Gaza

Ahram Online , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, arrived in Cairo on Tuesday, heading a delegation from the movement to hold talks with Egyptian officials on ongoing efforts to stop the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.

Ismail Haniyeh
Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh taken on February 13, 2024. AFP


The discussions will also address ongoing efforts to stop the Israeli aggression in Gaza, provide humanitarian relief to civilians in the strip, and achieve the goals of the Palestinian people, according to a statement released by Hamas.

The meeting comes a week after top negotiators from Egypt, Qatar, the United States, and Israel failed to reach a ceasefire deal in the Gaza war in one-day talks in Cairo last Tuesday.

The talks involved Egyptian intelligence officials, CIA Director William Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and an Israeli delegation led by Mossad head David Barnea, and Director of the Israeli Security Agency (Shabak) Ronen Bar.

The mediators proposed ideas to reach a truce in the war between Israel and Hamas, a prisoner swap deal, and the sustained entry of humanitarian aid to 2.3 million Palestinians under an Israeli blockade since 7 October. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu derailed the mediation efforts by refusing to send Mossad and Shabak chiefs back to Cairo for further talks.

The Cairo talks were the latest in a series of efforts mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the US to spell out terms for a ceasefire.

In late January, Egyptian and Qatari intelligence officials met with the heads of Mossad and the CIA in Paris for ceasefire talks.

However,  the Israeli war cabinet rejected a Hamas proposal for a three-phase ceasefire deal following the Paris meeting.

In tandem, PM Netanyahu ratcheted up the tough talk by threatening to launch a ground assault on Rafah in southernmost Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians sought refuge from Israeli bombardment elsewhere in the strip, to achieve what he described as "total victory."

Egypt has voiced strong opposition to any Israeli ground assault on Rafah, which lies on the Palestinian side of the Egypt-Gaza border, and categorical rejection of any Israeli attempts aimed at forcibly displacing residents of the strip to Sinai.

Egyptian officials have stressed that Cairo considers any forced displacement of Palestinians by Israel from Gaza as a "war crime."

Hamas has also warned that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would render talks with Israel a moot point.

Meanwhile, citing three Israeli and US officials, AXIOS reported on Tuesday that Brett McGurk, President Biden's top Middle East adviser, is expected to visit Israel and Egypt this week for talks on the possible Israeli military operation in Rafah and efforts to secure the release of captives held by Hamas in Gaza.

After 137 days, Israeli airstrikes and bombardment killed 29,195 people in the strip and injured 69,170, according to the health ministry in Gaza on Tuesday.

The Israeli onslaught on Gaza has destroyed or damaged most of the residential units and infrastructure in the strip.

Meanwhile, an Israeli blockade on the strip since 7 October has left most of the civilian population on the verge of starvation.

Egypt has led regional and international efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinians under siege in the strip through the Rafah, Karm Abu Salem, and Ouga border crossing with Gaza.

Egypt has called on the international community to pressure Israel to allow for the unfettered entry of aid to the strip.

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