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September 22, 2018 1:37 pm

Egyptian Envoys Rush to Gaza for ‘Critical’ Talks Aimed at Easing Tensions, Brokering Reconciliation Between Hamas and Fatah

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Palestinians riot on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, August 3, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

Egyptian envoys have arrived in the Gaza Strip on a “critical visit” to save the possibility of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, as well as the preservation of calm with Israel.

According to Yediot Aharonot, the envoys entered Gaza through the Erez Crossing with Israel and will hold a series of emergency meetings with the relevant parties. Yediot quotes Palestinian sources saying, “We are talking about a critical and meaningful visit.”

“Egypt is interested first and foremost in creating inter-Palestinian reconciliation according to the requests of Abu Mazen,” the sources said, referring to the nom de guerre of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas’ demands include recognition that “he is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians with whom it is permitted to reach any understandings on the Gaza Strip.”

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“Hamas, in contrast, is interested first and foremost in advancing the calm and order via a vis Israel,” the sources added. In addition, Hamas hopes to gain concessions from Israel such as “easing the blockade of the Strip.”

In regard to Egypt’s interests, the sources said, “Egypt feels that this impasse is leading Gaza to a dangerous military escalation against Israel,” but will not broker further easing of tensions “only to satisfy Hamas, because Egypt has wider international and inter-Arab political interests. Egypt will need to make a decision regarding how it will overcome this obstacle.”

Egypt has been instrumental in lowering tensions between Israel and Hamas, and has been attempting to broker a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation for some time.

Abbas, however, has been putting increasingly heavy sanctions on Hamas, per his demand that the group disarm and hand control of Gaza back to his Fatah party. Thus far, Hamas has refused to do so. Abbas’ sanctions are causing severe disruption to Gaza’s already fragile economy, and Israel fears this could lead to another outbreak of violence, possibly escalating to open war.

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