Egyptian Delegation in Gaza for Talks in Effort to Maintain Calm Ahead of Nakba Day

Israel's commitment to cease-fire understandings will determine intensity of upcoming border protests, March of Return organizer says

File photo: Palestinians gather near an apartment block that was hit by an Israeli air strike, in the northern Gaza Strip, May 6, 2019.
Mohammed Salem/Reuters

An Egyptian security delegation arrived Thursday in the Gaza for a round of meetings with Hamas officials and representatives of other Palestinian factions, amid ongoing efforts to ensure a calm between Israel and the Strip after a violent escalation that ended late Sunday with a cease-fire agreement.

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The Egyptian officials, led by head of the Egyptian intelligence's Palestine desk Gen. Ahmed Abdel Khalek, are scheduled to meet later on Thursday with Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, as well as other senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials.

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A Hamas delegation headed by Sinwar held talks in Cairo over the past two weeks with the head of the Egyptian intelligence, Gen. Abbas Kamel, Hamas said Thursday in a statement, as part of the implementation of understandings between Israel and the Palestinians factions and in an attempt to bring the blockade on Gaza to an end.

Senior Islamic Jihad official Nafed Azzam said the Egyptian delegation would "observe closely" the implementation of the agreement with Israel and put pressure on it to fulfill its commitments, after the Palestinian organizations told Egypt they remain committed to the understandings reached.

Four Israelis and 25 Palestinians were killed last week in the deadliest round of violence between Israel and Gaza since 2014. Much like previous bouts of hostilities over the past several years, the outline of the cease-fire agreement mirrored the previous understandings reached at the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. 

Palestinian leaders in Gaza said Monday that they would give Israel a week to carry out its cease-fire commitments, which they say include  taking steps to ease the blockade on Gaza. If Israel fails to do its part within a week, fighting would resume within the next few weeks, they said.

Meanwhile, the organizing committee of the weekly Great March of Return protest in Gaza called Thursday for a general strike on Wednesday, May 15, the annual commemoration of Nakba Day. In a press conference, they also called on Gazans to join marches along the border with Israel.

"Nakba," the Arabic word for disaster, is a term used to describe Israel's founding and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians leading up to and following the 1948 war.

A committee source said that opening border crossings and letting in aid money could contribute to easing the tensions along the border during the Wednesday protest, which he added is supported by Palestinian factions.

Hamas forces are expected to prevent protesters on Friday from committing any actions that may lead to escalation, Israeli defense officials said.

According to the Israeli intelligence assessment, Hamas leaders won't rush to cease border protests, which they see as an effective tool to put pressure on Israel, but rather keep control over their intensity.

Yaniv Kubovich contributed to this report.