Heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad Meet Egyptian Officials for Gaza Talks

Islamic Jihad reportedly seeks to make clear that it will retaliate against Israeli moves in Gaza, while Hamas chief wants approval for a tour of Arab and Muslim countries

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh gestures as he speaks during a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City December 16, 2018.
REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Representatives of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were meeting Monday with Egyptian officials to discuss maintaining calm in the Gaza Strip.

The delegation, led by Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziyad Al-Nakhaleh, was set to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, including intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. The delegation is also expected to discuss a series of visits Haniyeh seeks to make to several Arab and Muslim countries.

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According to the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, Islamic Jihad is trying to establish an equation in which any Israeli attack or violation of ceasefire terms would lead to retaliation by the group. The release on Sunday of a video documenting the shooting of an Israeli soldier was no coincidence, said the report, but was in fact intended to make clear that the organization intends to retaliate against any injuries to Palestinians across the fence separating Israel from Gaza.

The report further said that Islamic Jihad has also made this position clear to Hamas. According to Hamas sources, the group does not intend to disagree with Egypt on this subject because of Cairo's role as a mediator and its control over the Rafah border crossing. Meanwhile, Egypt plans to continue talks with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, Hamas requires Egyptian approval for Haniyeh's hoped-for tour of Arab and Muslim countries because it would require him using the Rafah crossing. Among the countries Haniyeh has previously visited are several that have uneasy relations with Egypt –Turkey, Qatar, Iran and Lebanon. It was not clear which countries Haniyeh plans to visit this time, whether he intends to meet with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah or Iranian officials, and how Egypt would respond.

Haniyeh does not plan to return to Gaza until next week, when representatives of Palestinian factions are set to travel to Moscow for talks hosted by the Russian Foreign Ministry.