Hamas calls for violence, announces increased funds for protests Friday; Haniyeh-Lavrov meeting in Moscow postponed; Egyptian intelligence officers in Gaza for meetings with Hamas; Pompeo in Cairo.
Reports confirmed Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh’s visit to Moscow next week to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been postponed.
Haniyeh was scheduled to meet with Russian officials following an offer from Russia to mediate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as to oversee reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in November of last year.
At the time, Russia offered to mediate the peace process following the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of the Trump Administration’s peace plan efforts and following its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. In November, Lavrov offered Russia’s mediation, claiming “It is impossible to create stability in the Middle East, including in Libya and Iraq, without a solution to the oldest regional problem, the Palestinian problem. We support the need for a resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We confirm again our offer from several years ago to host a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Russia without any preconditions.”
Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, Hamas confirmed the arrest of 45 collaborators with Israel from the November raid in which an elite IDF officer was killed. During the raid, an exchange of fire broke out with Hamas militants and the soldier was killed and another soldier injured. The officer’s identity and details of the mission at Khan Younis have been kept classified.
Hamas confirmed this week that the arrests were carried out by its security services and those arrested are currently under investigation. It also announced increased funds and plans for violent “The Great March of the Return” protests this Friday, including increased arson balloon attacks. A delegation of Egyptian intelligence officers reportedly traveled to the Gaza Strip for meetings with Hamas officials on Thursday in efforts to curb the scheduled violence.
The developments follow additional reports of cooperation between Israel with Egypt, who has been a consistent mediator between Israel and Hamas. Last week additional media reports signaled increased ties and cooperation between both states in the area of security, specifically in combatting Islamic extremists groups, including ISIS, in northern Sinai.
Israel has assisted Egypt in the past in combatting Islamic Jihad, Hamas and ISIS forces in Sinai as part of ongoing efforts by the Egyptian military and security forces to eradicate extremists and terrorists from Sinai. They have coordinated on Hamas tunnels and security breaches from the Gaza Strip on Israel and Egypt’s borders.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently in Egypt as part of his Middle East tour centered on Iran, the US withdrawal from Syria and President Trump’s peace plan. He is scheduled to meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Pompeo has so far visited Jordan and Iraq ahead of stops in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to work in establishing ties between Israel with the Arab world. He recently stated on Israel’s standing and developing relations with Middle Eastern states in relation to the conflict with the Palestinians, “The Arab states are looking for links with the strong. Cultivating strengths gives us diplomatic power. It is more likely that it will work in reverse. Links with the Arab world will bring normalization and create the conditions for developing links with the Palestinians.”
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