Senior Hamas Officials Travel to Cairo to Mend Egypt Ties

Already fraught relations took a turn for the worst this week after Hamas was accused of involvement in the assassination of Egypt's public prosecutor.

Senior Hamas officials Mahmoud Al-Zahar, Khalil Al-Hayya and Imad Al-Alami in Gaza in 2015.
Reuters

A delegation of senior Hamas officials from Gaza Strip traveled to Cairo on Saturday for a series of meeting with Egyptian security officials as part of an attempt by the Gaza rulers to mend ties with their Arab neighbors.

Headed by Mousa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' deputy politburo chief, the 12-member Hamas delegation also included top figures Mahmoud Al-Zahar, Khalil Al-Hayya, Imad Al-Alami and Nizhar Udalla. They crossed into Gaza on Saturday morning through the Rafah crossing, reportedly under heavy security.

The visit comes a week after Egypt accused Hamas of involvement in last year's assassination of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat. Hamas rejected the claim as "politically motivated," saying it was an attempt to pull Hamas into internal Egyptian issues, but stressed their desire to deescalate tensions with Egypt.  

According to sources within Hamas' delegation, the sides are expected to hold talks with officials from Egypt's military intelligence about the prosecutor's case, as well as additional allegations facing the group in Egypt: including supporting ISIS' Sinai branch in its battle against the Egyptian regime.

They are also expected to discuss the ceasefire with Egypt, Palestinian reconciliation and lifting the Egyptian side of the blockade on Gaza and its land crossing in Rafah.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the officials were hoping to turn a new page in relations with Egypt.

"Hamas stresses its interest in preserving the security and stability of Egypt and we are looking forward to a new era in relations," he said in a statement. Speaking to the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi last week, Abu Zuhri said that despite the fallout between Hamas and Egypt, contact between the two has been ongoing with the mutual intent of restoring ties.  

Egyptian and Israeli blockades of Gaza have made it difficult for goods and people to move in and out of the territory, increasing hardship for its 1.95 million people.

Hamas wrested control of the territory in a brief 2007 civil war with forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds sway in the occupied West Bank.

Its relations with Cairo have worsened since 2013, when Egypt's army ousted Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi, the country's first elected president. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood was Hamas's strategic ideological ally.

Some Cairo security officials have accused Hamas of aiding militants in Sinai, but Hamas leaders have repeatedly denied meddling in Egypt's internal affairs.

Egypt, historically the Palestinians' major backer, has brokered several truces between Israel and Gaza factions and tried to heal past rifts between rival Palestinian factions.

But it has intensified a blockade of Gaza by largely sealing the border since 2013, citing precarious security conditions in neighboring Sinai where Islamist militants have launched many deadly strikes on Egyptian soldiers.