A delegation of five Israelis led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy, Isaac Molho, were in Cairo on Tuesday for meetings with Egyptian military figures, Turkey’s Andolu Agency has reported.
No further details about the talks were given.
Israeli-Egyptian relations have improved somewhat under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, after suffering during the one-year tenure of Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted in July 2013. In May, ahead of Egypt’s presidential election, Sissi declared that his country’s peace pact with Israel was stable and offered to mediate talks between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at reaching a negotiated agreement.
Egypt helped to broker the release, nearly four years ago, of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinian militants in June 2006. In the wake of Israel’s rearrest and detention of Palestinian prisoners who were freed in exchange for Shalit, the Palestinians have pressured Egypt to urge Israel to honor the agreement, which the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip claims it has violated.
In July, after it was reported that two Israelis were missing in the Gaza Strip, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal said his organization would not agree to negotiate over the return of the Israelis, or the return of the bodies of two soldiers killed during last summer’s war in Gaza, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, until the Hamas men were freed.
Since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in February 2011, Egypt has been roiled by anarchy and repeated terror attacks, particularly in Sinai. At first it was said that the militants in Sinai were from local Bedouin tribes, but the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, was clearly behind the violence in the peninsula, which early in July erupted into full-on combat that included the takeover of the town of Sheikh Dawid.
Israel has allowed Egypt to bring tanks and armed personnel carriers, on several occasions recently into certain areas of Sinai, despite limitations on Egyptian military presence agreed upon in the 1979 Camp David Accords. A highly placed Egyptian source told Haaretz that if Islamic State militants approached the Gaza Strip, Sissi might “invite” the Israel Defense Forces to take action against the Islamist organization, adding that the Israeli and Egyptian armies may already be coordinating a response to such a move.
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