Hamas delegation eyes improved ties with Cairo

Group says it is ready to meet Egyptian demands in return for opening Egypt-Gaza border, according to Palestinian sources quoted in Arabic-language press

Hamas delegation eyes improved ties with Cairo

World Bulletin / News Desk

Hamas leaders are expected to resume talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on Monday in an effort to improve relations, which nosedived following a 2013 military coup that removed Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

A high-profile Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Sunday in the second such visit since Egyptian authorities early this month accused the group of involvement in last year’s assassination of Egyptian Prosecutor-General Hesham Barakat.

On the eve of the visit, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar said the group would respond "positively" to Egyptian demands.

He declined, however, to elaborate further.

Well-placed Palestinian sources, meanwhile, told London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat on Sunday that Hamas would pledge not to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs.

"Hamas will promise to control the [Egypt-Gaza] border, rein in extremists in Gaza, and prevent the infiltration of militants and weapons into the Sinai Peninsula," the sources were quoted as saying.

According to the same sources, Hamas will forsake any organizational links with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has been the target of a harsh crackdown by the Egyptian authorities since Morsi’s ouster in mid-2013.

The Egyptian media accuses Hamas, an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, of involvement in a spate of recent militant attacks in Sinai -- claims the Palestinian group strenuously denies.


Border closure

Since Morsi’s overthrow almost three years ago, Egypt has sealed its border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which continues to reel under a crippling, decade-long Israeli embargo.

The ongoing closure of the Rafah border crossing, Gaza’s only access to the outside world not under Israeli control, has made life even more difficult for the strip’s roughly 1.9 million residents.

Hamas, for its part, plans to demand that Egypt reopen the Rafah crossing on a permanent basis, according to the Palestinian sources quoted by Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

"Hamas will also call for an end to Egyptian media incitement against the group and that Egypt stop pumping seawater into the border zone," the sources said.

Last September, the Egyptian army began inundating the border area between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula with seawater in an effort to destroy a network of cross-border tunnels used by Gaza residents to import food and medicine into the blockaded enclave.

Hamas will also ask Egyptian officials to reveal the fate of four Hamas members who went missing in Sinai last year shortly after crossing into the restive peninsula, the Palestinian sources said.

"Hamas will further demand that Egypt resume its role as mediator in truce negotiations between Hamas and Israel and in reconciliation talks with rival Palestinian group Fatah," the sources were quoted as saying.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Mart 2016, 09:26