Middle East/North Africa

Israel, Egypt hold high-level talks on ceasefire, rebuilding Gaza

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Officials from Egypt and Israel held meetings in both countries Sunday to discuss solidifying a tentative truce between Israel and Hamas and rebuilding the Gaza Strip.

The Associated Press reports that Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry welcomed his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, in Cairo. According to Shukry’s office, the meeting aimed to build on the May 21 ceasefire that was negotiated by Egypt by renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations which have stalled for over a decade.

According to Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ahmed Hafez, Shukry called for relaunching “serious and constructive” negotiations between Israel and Palestine and asked both sides to refrain from “any measures” that could endanger peace talks.

This was the first public visit of an Israeli foreign minister to Egypt since 2008, the AP notes.

The outlet reports that Ashkenazi criticized the Palestinian Authority for its actions in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Human Rights Council.

In March, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, announced she would be opening an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in Palestinian territories after Palestine, a member of the court, asked for a probe into Israel’s actions during the 2014 war. Israel is not a member of the court and has rejected the investigation on the basis that Palestine is not an independent sovereign state.

The Palestinian Authority celebrated the announcement at the time.

“This long-awaited step serves Palestine’s vigorous effort to achieve justice and accountability as indispensable bases for peace,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also hosted Egyptian chief of intelligence Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem, the AP reports. According to Netanyahu, he discussed the return of the remains of two soldiers who were killed in 2014 war and are currently being held by Hamas.

Senior political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, is expected to be in Cairo this week and is reportedly open to discussing a potential prisoner swap with Israel, the AP notes.

Kamel will also be meeting with Palestinian officials in the West Bank before meeting with leaders of Hamas. Egyptian state-run media reported that Kamel would be carrying a message from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conveying “Egypt’s full support to the Palestinian people.”

An Egyptian official close to the matter told the AP that Egypt has offered guarantees that rebuilding funds for Gaza will not end up with Hamas. The process would potentially be overseen by an international committee led by Egypt or the UN.

According to the official, Kamel also discussed ways of preventing further clashes including at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He also touched on ways of preventing the planned eviction of Palestinian families in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

Tags Benjamin Netanyahu Benjamin Netanyahu Egypt Hamas Israel Israeli–Palestinian peace process Mahmoud Abbas Palestine Palestinian National Authority Palestinian territories

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