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Hamas chief returns to Gaza after meeting with Egyptian officials

Jan. 27, 2017 5:56 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 27, 2017 7:13 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Hamas deputy chief Ismail Haniyeh returned to the besieged Gaza Strip on Friday after spending four months traveling to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt discussing bilateral ties between the countries and the Palestinian movement.

Sources told Ma’an that Egyptian authorities had opened the Rafah crossing between the coastal enclave and Egypt in order to allow Haniyeh and his delegation to return to the Gaza Strip.

Haniyeh had left the small Palestinian territory to perform Hajj rituals in Saudi Arabia, before heading to Qatar and Egypt.

An Egyptian security official said on Sunday that Haniyeh would meet with the head of Egyptian intelligence agency, Khalid Fawzi, to discuss the possibility of reopening the Rafah crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt permanently, and the security situation near the border between Egypt and Gaza.

The security official also said that the meetings would also address the reconciliation process between Hamas, which is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the occupied West Bank, by offering to host talks between the two sides in Cairo.

Egyptian security sources told Ma’an on Friday that the meeting was “very successful.”

Sources confirmed that Haniyeh met with Fawzi and discussed issues relating to Palestinian reconciliation, border security, the Rafah crossing, and ways the two leaders could lessen the suffering of Palestinians in the besieged territory.

Discussions also reportedly tackled the issues of Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory and Hamas-constructed tunnels.

It was agreed during the meetings that Hamas would maintain contact with Egyptian authorities in order to develop procedures around the discussed issues.

Hamas also said in a statement on Friday that Haniyeh had discussed bilateral ties between Hamas and Egypt, Palestinian reconciliation, and the decade-long Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

The statement concluded by noting that political relations between Hamas and Egypt were “very strong.”

Haniyeh had also visited Qatar, where Fatah and Hamas officials met to discuss political reconciliation and the eventual formation of a unity government, with Fatah officials affirming that the internal Palestinian divisions “should end in a short time.”

Reports of reconciliation talks in past weeks have come as Hamas and the PA have exchanged accusations of carrying out “politically motivated” arrests, and blamed each other for an ongoing electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip which left the majority of Palestinians there with only three hours of power a day for more than a week.

Fatah and Hamas have been embroiled in conflict since Hamas' election victory in 2006 elections in the Gaza Strip, which erupted into a violent conflict between the two movements as both attempted to consolidate control over the territory.

Despite numerous attempts at reconciling the groups, Palestinian leadership has so far repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding of long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.

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