High-level Hamas Delegation Arriving in Gaza to Advance Deal With Israel and PA

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Hamas's new deputy leader Salah al-Arouri (seated L) and Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad (seated R) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017
Hamas's deputy leader Salah al-Arouri (seated, left) and Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad (seated right) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, but the deal was never implemented. Credit: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP

The deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in the West Bank, Salah al-Arouri, will be arriving in the Gaza Strip on Thursday along with two other senior Hamas officials, Moussa Abu-Marzouk and Hussam Badran. The visit by the high-level delegation, under the auspices of the Egyptian intelligence service, is intended to help advance a package deal, which would likely involve understandings with Israel and reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, sources in Gaza told Haaretz.

A Palestinian official in Gaza, who has been involved in the process and has had contact with the Egyptians, told Haaretz that the visit to Gaza by Arouri, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, would not have been possible without coordination with Israel.

“The Egyptians are not leaving any issue open, and if there weren’t such coordination, this wouldn’t have been carried out,” he said, adding that the coordination includes an Israeli commitment not to harm Arouri, whom the source described as “a very senior target from Israel’s standpoint.”

As of Thursday morning, Hamas had not publicly commented on the visit and had not released information on what would be the focus of the internal Hamas talks, but sources in Gaza said there is a consensus that the visit would not be taking place if there were not important matters up for discussion that require decisions at the highest level.

Prior to their arrival in Gaza, Arouri’s delegation was in Cairo conducting talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Abbas Kamel on an agreement that would halt hostilities with Israel and ease the blockade on Gaza. These issues are also linked to the issue of Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as well as to the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in combat in Gaza in 2014.

A Fatah delegation also visited Cairo and conveyed its agreement in principle to an Egyptian proposal, but added various conditions including the demand that the PA have complete control over the Gaza Strip.

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