Hamas Delegation Heading to Egypt to Discuss Gaza Relief

Egyptians to present plan for Gaza-Sinai commerce zone and loosen movement restrictions, reports Lebanese daily ■ Delegation reportedly not including mostly senior bureaucrats, to avoid giving talks diplomatic veneer

A woman at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, May 13, 2018
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

A Hamas delegation will be leaving shortly for Cairo at the invitation of Egyptian intelligence officials to discuss the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

According to a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, the Egyptians will present a plan to build a joint commercial zone between Gaza and the northern Sinai, ease movement through the Rafah crossing and allow use of the airport at El-Arish. According to the report, the Egyptians intend to implement the plan even if Hamas objects to it.

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It was also reported that Egyptian intelligence will continue its efforts to effect reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and they are awaiting responses about this from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas did not deny the report but would not provide details about the makeup of the delegation. A Palestinian source familiar with the details, however, said the delegation will include mostly senior bureaucrats and not diplomatic representatives. According to this source, Hamas is being careful, at least publicly, not to give a diplomatic dimension to the talks, but it would not object to civilian projects or improvements to the Strip’s economic situation, so it is sending professionals to the meetings.

This report follows the visit to the region of an American delegation headed by Jared Kushner, which visited Cairo, and parallels a trip by Hamas’ senior diplomatic officials in Moscow, who within a few days will also visit Tehran. Yesterday the head of the delegation, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said the Russians had agreed not to support America’s efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The PA is also making efforts to scuttle the American plan, based on the information Ramallah has received about it.

Abbas will be going to Moscow on July 13 at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation and will attend the final game of the World Cup. His office said Abbas planned to take advantage of the international event to hold diplomatic talks with Putin and other world leaders who will be in the Russian capital. Earlier this week Abbas sent Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj to Cairo to get an update on the talks Kushner held there and to warn of the implications for the Gaza Strip from America’s plan.

>> In Moscow, Hamas officials say Russia promised to oppose U.S. peace plan

Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, again attacked the American plan on Tuesday. “The purpose of the plan is to nullify the Palestinian national identity and crush the Palestinian desire to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, and not, as the administration is trying to deceptively portray it, to advance the diplomatic process.”

Abu Rudeineh said that any proposal to establish a seaport or any other project in Gaza without a diplomatic process, one based on the decisions of the international community, is an effort to avoid facing the difficult reality and perpetuate life under the occupation.

Abu Rudeineh also stressed that the American administration was hallucinating if it believes that removing Jerusalem and the refugee issue from the negotiating table, and withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran, would pave the way for a Gaza deal that is unacceptable to the Palestinians, the Arab states and the international community.

The PA is drawing encouragement from Kushner’s own assertion in an interview with the Al-Quds newspaper that the Arab countries have made clear their position that any solution must be based on a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and on an outline that ensures the Palestinians’ wishes are respected. A senior Palestinian official stressed that the impression Israel is trying to convey, that the Arab states will submit to any American diktat, is simply false.