Middle East Eye / August 17, 2021
Cairo has reportedly mediated talks in recent days between Israel and Hamas officials to maintain calm amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt has made contact with Israel and leaders of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the besieged Gaza Strip in an attempt to prevent renewed military escalation, according to a news report by Al-Araby al-Jadeed.
The London-based newspaper reported on Tuesday that Egypt has invited Israeli officials for “an urgent meeting” in Cairo in the coming days.
“The Egyptian communications channel comes in light of the (Israeli) occupation authorities ignoring the demands of the (Palestinian) factions in relation to easing the siege on Gaza, and their failure to adhere to an agreement reached by mediators in Egypt and Qatar two weeks ago concerning the Qatari grant, the expansion of permitted fishing areas, and the entry of a number of goods through the crossings under the control of the occupation,” the report said.
Meanwhile, it added that Egypt has urged the Gaza factions to keep calm, pledging to pressure the Israeli side to keep their promises.
Middle East Eye could not independently verify the news report, which comes following reports of rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel on Monday in an apparent response to Israel’s killing of four Palestinians in the occupied West Bank hours earlier.
Sources told the paper that Israel had abided by previous agreements relating to de-escalation in occupied East Jerusalem and the potential evacuations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, which Hamas has linked to the ceasefire agreement.
The source explained that Israeli officials had confirmed that the Jerusalem evacuations would be “frozen” during a recent meeting in Cairo with the Head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service Abbas Kamel.
However, Al-Araby al-Jadeed wrote that Egypt had urged Israel to take further steps “to prevent the situation there from spiraling out of control”.
A message reportedly sent by Egypt to the Israeli delegation stressed that Cairo would not be able to continue mediation “if the Israeli intransigence continues”.
Opening Rafah crossing
Egypt, meanwhile, vowed it will deliver urgent humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in the next few days and work towards opening the Rafah crossing between the blockaded Palestinian territory and Egypt.
In its 11-day offensive on the Gaza Strip in May, Israel launched around 2,750 aerial attacks and 2,300 artillery shells, killing at least 260 Palestinians, while 13 people were killed in Israel by rockets fired from Gaza.
Nearly three months after the ceasefire, the two million people living in Gaza continue to face tight Israeli restrictions on the entry of goods into the war-torn territory, causing a major economic recession while making reconstruction impossible.
While Egypt’s mediation succeeded in ending the outright conflict in May, Cairo’s efforts have yet to succeed in bringing the situation in Gaza back to pre-war levels – a status quo which was already precarious and strained for its residents, who had already been living for 14 years under an Israeli-led siege.
Amid Israel’s insistence on linking the issue of imports and reconstruction to the release of four Israelis believed to be held by Hamas, the ongoing paralysis in Gaza has sparked fears that it could trigger further confrontation down the line.