Egyptian Intel Delegation Presses Hamas to Curtail Clashes in Gaza Border Protests

Security officials from Cairo return to the Strip to meet again with Hamas chief Haniyeh as part of final effort to head off regional escalation, fearing Friday's activities would trigger a harsh Israeli response

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Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh shakes hands with Egyptian senior security official Ayman Badie in Gaza City October 18, 2018
Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh shakes hands with Egyptian senior security official Ayman Badie in Gaza City October 18, 2018Credit: \ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

A delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials returned to the Gaza Strip unexpectedly on Thursday for additional meetings with Hamas’ political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh.

The delegation visited the Strip on Wednesday for talks as part of final efforts to head off an escalation in the region, following months of clashes between Gazans and Israeli forces along the border.

The delegation was headed by Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abdel Khalek – the intelligence officer in charge of the Palestinian portfolio - and the director general of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Ayman Badie.

The delegation returned that evening to Egypt, without reaching any agreements on the border protests, which began in March under the name of "The March of Return."

Following the delegation's departure, it was reported that Director of the General Intelligence, Abbas Kamel, who was due to visit the Strip and Ramallah on Thursday, had cancelled his visit.

On Thursday afternoon the delegation returned to Gaza to continue their talks with Hamas leadership. No details were given about the meeting’s content, but a Hamas official said the talks were intended to allay the tension, for fear the border protests and activity by the fence would lead to a harsh Israeli reaction.

It is not clear whether the Egyptian delegation conveyed messages to Hamas from Israel. A senior Hamas official in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, who met with the delegation members, said that Kamel’s visit was still on the agenda, and had been postponed for technical reasons due to Egyptian President Abdel—Fatah al—Sissi’s visit to Russia.

The committee organizing the Gaza border protests has called on the public to come en masse to the fence on Friday. This could put Hamas’ power to the test, if it takes on itself to reduce the activities’ scope.

Also Thursday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s military branches have published video clips threatening Israel that their battalions are ready for any scenario and that Israel should not make any mistakes in its evaluations of the Strip and the organizations capabilities.