A delegation of senior Hamas officials discussed resuming the Palestinian reconciliation process during a two-day meeting in Cairo that ended on Saturday, after the Egypt-mediated talks floundered late last year.
The delegation, which included the head of the Palestinian movement’s political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on Friday. After the conclusion of Egypt’s meeting with Hamas, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received Azzam al-Ahmed, the senior member of Fatah in charge of reconciliation, on Sunday.
The parties were set to tackle the humanitarian and economic crises in the Gaza Strip during the weekend meeting, Hamas spokesperson Fawzy Barhoum told Mada Masr ahead of the visit. The resumption of reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, countering the United States’s recent decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and Israeli settlements in the West Bank were also said to be on the agenda.
A source with knowledge of the deliberations between Hamas and Egypt, speaking on condition of anonymity, previously told Mada Masr that “the reconciliation process is the headline of the visit, but the delegation will also discuss border control between the Gaza strip and Egypt, in light of the security measures implemented by the Egyptian side.”
The Hamas visit coincided with the launch of the military campaign Operation Sinai 2018 on Friday, which the Armed Forces has stated is intended to eliminate the militant activity in the area that has escalated in the last five years.
Palestinian reconciliation efforts have lost their zeal in recent months, according to the source, who said that both Egypt and Hamas blame Fatah for the setback.
Last year saw a breakthrough in the reconciliation process when Hamas announced the dissolution of its executive office in September and agreed to hold general elections. It also agreed to transfer control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian unity government, which was formed in 2014 and incorporates leaders from both movements.
These developments came on the heels of meetings between leaders of the group and Egyptian officials. However, negotiations stalled in November following the handover of several border crossings, after which Hamas accused Fatah of stalling on its end of the agreement.
Hamas started work on a 12-km-long buffer zone along the Gaza-Egypt border in June, as result of a rapprochement between the Gaza-based movement and Egyptian authorities earlier that year. The agreement also required the building of security tower and the installation of security cameras.
The Rafah crossing, which lies on the Gaza-Egypt border, was repeatedly closed for lengthy periods after the former took over the seaside enclave in 2007. The border closures increased in frequency and duration after the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.