TEL AVIV – An Islamic Jihad delegation that recently returned from Cairo conveyed to Hamas on behalf of the Egyptian government that Cairo is ready to “reboot” its relationship with Gaza’s Islamist government if Hamas agrees to a number of terms, a Hamas official told Breitbart Jerusalem.
The move, which is likely to alleviate the Egyptian blockade of the Strip, depends on several issues that the Egyptian government is keen to clarify.
Among them is Cairo’s query as to whether Hamas officially supports its military wing commanders who trained seven Muslim Brotherhood paramilitary units that were later dismantled by the Egyptian army.
Another outstanding issue is security arrangements along the Sinai-Gaza border, and the nature of Hamas’ cross-border cooperation with the Islamic State affiliate in Sinai, against which the Egyptian army has been waging a bloody war for more than two years.
The official told Breitbart Jerusalem that Hamas’ leadership has been deliberating Egypt’s queries, hoping they will open the door to a formal invitation to Cairo and perhaps the beginning of a negotiation process.
The official said that for now Cairo is treating Gaza as a security issue rather than a diplomatic one. In all the meetings held in Cairo with Palestinian delegations, only members of military intelligence were present, and not a single governmental or presidential official.
“It means that the Egyptian government still treats the Gaza Strip and the political groups in it as a security liability, rather than forces that can impact regional diplomacy,” he said.
The official denied reports that Egypt plans to build a free-trade industrial zone near the border. “The Egyptians are for the time ready to allow the shipment of merchandise in a way that would to some degree alleviate the blockade.”
Earlier this year, Breitbart Jerusalem reported that Hamas relied on the IS contingent in Egypt, Welayat Sinai, for arms smuggling, and Hamas officials met with one of its leaders, Shadi Al Menai, in Gaza. During the visit, Hamas agreed to stop persecuting Gaza Salafists in exchange for help in the smuggling effort.
Recently, in an apparent attempt to sidle up to the Egyptian government and prove that it fights terror, Hamas launched extensive raids against Salafists.
In retaliation, IS started publishing pictures of Palestinian jihadists who died in their ranks, apparently in an attempt to embarrass Hamas and present them as traitors to the Islamic cause.
IS also published pictures in which its militants were seen attacking an Egyptian military outpost in Sinai, led by a Palestinian jihadi who had been on Hamas’ most wanted list.