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Hamas chief leaves Gaza for Cairo to discuss relations with Egypt

Sept. 9, 2017 5:03 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 9, 2017 5:03 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh left the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday morning for an official visit to Egypt, where a Hamas delegation is expected to meet with Egyptian officials, according to a statement released by Hamas. 

In his first visit to Cairo since being elected chief of the Hamas movement in May, Haniyeh is expected to discuss a variety of issues with Egyptian officials, the statement said. 

The statement added that Haniyeh and his delegation would build on previous visits by Hamas officials to Egypt in order to consolidate previous agreements aiming to ease the effects of Israel’s decade-long siege of the Palestinian territory, which has largely been upheld by Egypt in the south. 

Hamas has increased efforts to improve ties with Cairo, which has long accused the de facto Gaza ruling party of aiding an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula, which has been met with a harsh ‘counterterrorism’ crackdown by Egyptian authorities.

Hamas’ leadership is also now concentrated in Gaza; therefore, the political party is dependent on the goodwill of the Egyptian government to maintain its leaders’ freedom of movement through their shared border. 

Yahya Sinwar, the head of the party’s politburo in the Gaza Strip, reportedly announced last month that Hamas has repaired relations with Iran after a five-year row. Sinwar said that the new Iranian aid would be devoted to “rebuilding and accumulating” Hamas’ military powers for a larger fight against Israel that is meant to “liberate Palestine.”

At the time, Sinwar reportedly remarked that relations with Cairo “have improved dramatically,” as Egypt has recently sent much-needed fuel to ease the besieged coastal enclave's dire electricity crisis, after Hamas agreed to boost security at the border by constructing a new buffer zone there.

Sinwar was also told reporters that there would be no new talks over a prisoner swap until Israel frees 54 Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit prisoners' exchange deal of 2011 that have since been re-arrested.

Previous reports have suggested that Egypt could be the third-party mediator between Hamas and Israel for such a deal.

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