The talks will also focus on accelerating the reconstruction process in Gaza

Egypt invites Hamas, Palestinians and Israel to new talks

AFP PHOTO / HO / PRESIDENCIA EGIPCIA - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Egypt has invited Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to hold separate talks aimed at consolidating the ceasefire that ended an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas' militant rulers in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian intelligence official said on Thursday. The talks will also focus on speeding up Gaza's reconstruction process, according to the AP news agency. 

"We are looking for a long-term truce, allowing for further discussions and possibly direct talks," said the official, who was closely familiar with the procedures leading to the ceasefire and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters.

The 11-day war killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. Preliminary estimates put the damage at hundreds of millions of dollars. Egypt was instrumental in brokering an agreement between the two sides.

ZUMA/MAHMOUD AJJOUR - Le leader palestinien du Hamas Ismail Haniyeh s'exprime lors d'une conférence de presse dans la ville de Gaza

Israel's foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, will lead the Israeli delegation to the unprecedented meeting "early next week", the Israeli army's official Galatz radio station confirmed today.

From Hamas, it will be the movement's political chief, Ismail Haniyeh, who will go to Cairo "in the coming days" to "discuss the stabilisation of the ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip", according to Efe news agency.

He explained that the talks could begin as early as next week, and that Israel has given its initial approval, but that a final agenda is still being worked on. He also said that a possible release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel in exchange for Israelis held by Hamas is being discussed. Both issues were discussed with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit yesterday, and with the Qatari foreign minister, who was in Cairo on Tuesday.

An Israeli official said the government is working closely with Egyptian officials "to reinforce the ceasefire" but would not confirm whether Israeli officials will attend more official talks soon. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

AFP/ALEX BRANDON-El Secretario de Estado de EE.UU., Antony Blinken (izq.), y el presidente palestino, Mahmud Abbas, hacen una declaración conjunta, el 25 de mayo de 2021, en la sede de la Autoridad Palestina en la ciudad cisjordana de Ramallah

Blinken ended a two-day visit to the Middle East on Wednesday aimed at consolidating the ceasefire and raising funds for reconstruction. One of the US aims is to ensure that any aid is kept out of the hands of Hamas, which opposes Israel's right to exist and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the US.

The Egyptian official said one possible mechanism to ensure this is an international committee led by Egypt or the United Nations to oversee spending.

Hamas spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou confirmed that the group's leader, Ismail Haniyeh, would visit Cairo next week and that the group is open to discussing a prisoner exchange. El-Qanoua said the Cairo talks would also address ways to achieve Palestinian unity between Gazans and those in Israeli-occupied areas of the West Bank.

AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS  -   Los palestinos evalúan los daños causados por los ataques aéreos israelíes, en Beit Hanun, en el norte de la Franja de Gaza, el 14 de mayo de 2021

The Gaza Strip has been ruled by Hamas since the group seized power from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, triggering a tight blockade by Israel and Egypt. Since then, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has limited influence in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority had no immediate comment on its assistance.

The war was triggered after weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa mosque, built on a hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims that has seen several outbreaks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians over the years. The protests were directed at Israeli policing of the area during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.