Israel's FM to Meet With Egyptian Counterpart in Bid to Reach Long-term Cease-fire Deal With Hamas

According to political sources, Israel will condition transferring non-humanitarian aid on the return of soldiers' bodies, civilians held captive by Hamas in Gaza

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi visit the southern city of Ashkelon, where a Gaza rocket landed, last week.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi visit the southern city of Ashkelon, where a Gaza rocket landed, last week.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is expected to meet with his Egyptian counterpart next week in Cairo and discuss a long-term cease-fire with Hamas.

Ashkenazi and Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry already spoke on the phone during Israel's latest operation in Gaza and agreed to meet as soon as possible.

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A political source told Haaretz that the talks aim to bring about a summit meeting in Cairo with the attendance of representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and possibly the United States.

Israel sees Egypt as a dominant actor that can put pressure on Hamas and persuade it to agree to Israel's conditions to  reconstructing Gaza, as well as resolving the issue of Israeli civilians and bodies of Israeli soldiers held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

According to political sources, Israel will allow the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza, but will condition non-urgent assistance like building materials to reconstruct the Strip on resolving the issue of those held captive in Gaza.

On Wednesday, Hamas Chief Yahya Sinwar referred to the possibility of reaching a deal to return the bodies of Israeli soldiers and said that "political instability" in Israel has prevented the implementation of such a deal, but said they're "convinced the issue can be advanced."    

Additional Israel delegations are expected to travel to Egypt to advance the long-term agreement, including the National Security Council and Defense Ministry representatives will join the delegations.

Ashkenazi and Shoukry are expected to discuss possible ways to deliver funds and building materials while preventing Hamas from using them to reconstruct its attack tunnels and manufacture weapons.

Israeli officials believe that the international supervision of goods entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing is insufficient, and therefore Egyptian involvement will be required to ensure that the Rafah border crossing is not used by Hamas to smuggle goods.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Washington will transfer $38 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza and the West Bank.

The U.S. plans to add another $75 million in aid earmarked for economic development, on top of the $250 million in aid for the Palestinians, which was announced in March.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that he planned to make the return of two Israeli civilians held captive by Hamas and the remains of two Israeli soldiers a condition of the delivery of all but humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Gantz said at a media briefing that all aid to Gaza will remain at the "basic humanitarian threshold," and that anything beyond that level will be conditioned on advancing and solving the issue of the captives and the soldiers' bodies.

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