Netanyahu Cancels Trip Abroad, Cabinet to Convene on Israel-Hamas Deal

Citing 'situation in south,' prime minister cancels diplomatic visit to Colombia ■ Security cabinet to convene Sunday on efforts to reach deal with Hamas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attending the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that he was canceling a planned trip to Colombia, citing "the situation in the south."

Netanyahu's cancellation comes amid reported progress in talks between Israel and Hamas leadership in the Strip, mediated by the UN and Egypt, in an attempt to reach a deal between the two parties. The security cabinet is expected to convene Sunday to discuss the efforts to reach a deal with Hamas.

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Sources close to the prime minister said that part of the reason for the cancelation was the fact that the flight to Bogota from Israel, which takes 17 hours, would have made it difficult for Netanyahu to return to Israel should developments require his presence.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with the presidents of Argentina, Guatemala, Chile and Honduras. The premier's most recent visit to Latin America was in September of last year, when he visited Argentina.

United Nations special envoy to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, described on Sunday the talks on the prospects of reaching a deal on restoring calm between Israel and the Palestinians as "positive." Mladenov met on Sunday in Cairo wth Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and spoke with him about recent violence in Gaza and the West Bank, the severe economic crisis in Gaza and efforts at Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah, which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

In his efforts in cooperation with Egypt and other Arab countries to advance a proposal that would end the round of violence, the UN envoy met on Saturday with representatives of Hamas in Gaza after previously meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party.

Netanyahu is still scheduled to travel to Lithuania and Croatia at the end of this month for meetings h Eastern European leaders.

Earlier Thursday it was reported in Gaza that a delegation of senior Hamas members is headed for the Strip to continue discussions on the Egyptian proposal for a reconciliation between the Palestinian factions.