The chief of Egyptian General Intelligence Abbas Kamel arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday for talks with Hamas following the 11-day war with Israel.
Kamel went through the Erez crossing from Ramallah. He was received at a hotel by a delegation of Hamas leaders led by the head of the group’s political bureau in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.
Egypt wants to develop the ceasefire agreement into a long-term truce that guarantees security and stability, and paves the way for reconstruction.
His visit as the highest-ranking Egyptian official to Gaza comes amid a shift in the country’s official stance toward Gaza and Hamas, which emerged as a result of the war and within the framework of a ceasefire it brokered on May 21.
The two sides discussed the issue of prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel, which witnessed some progress before the last war in Gaza.
Khalil Al-Hayya, a member of the political bureau, said after the meeting with Kamel: “It is no secret that progress occurred before the last war on the issue of prisoner exchange, but it does not seem that the Israeli occupation is ready to move forward with reaching a new deal.”
The meeting did not exclude talks to restore Palestinian unity and end the division that has persisted since 2007, according to Al-Hayya’s statement.
Kamel also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the beginning of his visit to the region. Netanyahu, according to a statement from his office, called on the intelligence chief to recover “the soldiers and civilians detained by Hamas in Gaza as soon as possible.”
Gabi met his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and they discussed “ways to stabilize the ceasefire in Gaza.”
The visit coincided with a trip by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to Egypt, the first of its kind since 2008.
Kamel met Palestinian factions after his meeting with the Hamas leadership to discuss issues related to confirming the ceasefire, as well as Palestinian reconciliation.
While Israel is trying to link the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in return for the release of Israeli soldiers detained in Gaza, Hamas has rejected that approach.
Al-Hayya said the issue of prisoner exchange had nothing to do with reconstruction as each case had a “separate entitlement.”
Hamas has two Israeli soldiers who were captured during the 2014 war and is refusing to reveal if they are alive or dead, in addition to two others who hold Israeli citizenship and entered Gaza at different times and in unclear circumstances.
Kamel’s four-hour visit laid the foundation stone for an Egyptian residential city south of Gaza City, within Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s pledge to contribute to the reconstruction of what the war had destroyed.
Official figures indicate that the war caused the destruction of 1,800 housing units, including multi-storey towers, schools, agricultural land, factories and warehouses.
“This visit is an attempt to restore a foothold for the Egyptian regime in Gaza after it was fully aware that the file of the Palestinian cause, which is part of Egyptian national security, may be withdrawn from it and many countries are trying to enter it,” he said.
Political analyst Ibrahim Habib said that Kamel’s first visit to Gaza had many advantages.
He added there were are many different accounts of the Egyptian regime that were being driven by international and regional powers, especially the US, which wanted the country to play a prominent role in the Palestinian cause, especially at this stage.