Egypt Pushing for Israeli Ceasefire Before Sunday, Official Says

As Egypt's President Al-Sissi calls on both sides to restore 'peace and calm', a senior Egyptian official privy to the talks reveals that Cairo expects Israel to make the first move, and hopefully before the violence escalates with Jews expected to go up the Temple Mount on Sunday

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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An Egyptian aid convoy arriving at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in 2021.
An Egyptian aid convoy arriving at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in 2021.Credit: Said Khatib / AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

A senior Egyptian official with knowledge of the ceasefire talks between Israel and Islamic Jihad said he hopes Israel will agree to a ceasefire "as soon as possible," amid fears of escalation as scores of Jews are set to ascend the Temple Mount on Sunday.

According to the source, Egypt is exerting pressure on Israel in hopes that a ceasefire will be declared "tonight or early in the morning," in order to ensure tension levels are low as religious Jews make their way to the Temple Mount.

"If there are more deaths in the Gaza Strip [tonight], and tomorrow morning events unfold in the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, it will be difficult to control the situation and prevent a deterioration into a larger conflict." the source said, referring to the events of Tisha B’Av — a holiday in which religious Jews mourn the destruction of the two ancient temples, and which has become politically-charged in recent years.

The official also stressed that a ceasefire must be agreed upon in as soon as possible because Hamas' decision to stay out of the conflict is not guaranteed to last much longer. "Currently, we are managing to stop Hamas from intervening, and this is a window of opportunity," the official said. "Every hour that passes only increases the pressure, and the fear of losing control."

According to the source, Egypt is directing its diplomatic efforts on pressuring Israel to agree to a ceasefire first, and only then will it call for the Islamic Jihad to follow suit. "After two or three days of quiet," the Egyptian plan for the ceasefire stipulates, "will we be ready to move on and discuss the easing of restrictions [on Gaza] and other humanitarian concerns."

The Egyptian mediators in the talks even sent messages to Israel that they expect their proposal to be brought up for discussion in the Israeli cabinet this evening: "We are in a difficult situation but there is still a possibility to prevent the expansion of the cycle of violence," adding that "every death in Gaza will only increase the pressure on Hamas [to join the fight], in addition to the humanitarian situation which is getting worse. We hope that Israel will be attentive and verify our proposal tonight."

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi said on Saturday that Egypt is "making great efforts with all parties involved to restore calm and peace to the Gaza Strip," and that talks are being held "around the clock". Cairo, Al-Sissi said, has "an interest in preventing the escalation and deterioration of the situation."

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