Cairo has been in contact with both the Israeli government and the various Palestinian factions

Egypt sets itself up as mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

AP/VASILY FEDOSENKO - Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

Israel and Hamas are shoring up the truce declared on 21 May after 11 days of intense clashes. Egypt has once again emerged as the mediator in this crisis, maintaining contacts with both sides. Finally, and after the long-awaited arrival of the ceasefire, Egypt invited Israel and Hamas to a negotiating table to hold talks with the aim of consolidating the cessation of hostilities.

These talks have been held indirectly over the past few days, but official Egyptian sources have stressed that they hope these meetings will serve to establish "a long-term truce, allowing for further discussions and possibly direct talks". The first meeting took place in Cairo between Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

Atalayar_Gabi Ashkenazi

One of the main points of discussion was the release of Israeli soldiers and citizens held by Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in line with his foreign minister, made ceasefire negotiations conditional on the return of the remains of Israeli soldiers and two civilians. Likewise, during his meeting in Jerusalem with Egypt's intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, Netanyahu stressed the need to prevent Hamas from strengthening itself or diverting resources intended for the civilian population.

On the same day, Kamel met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and, according to Reuters, delivered a message from Egyptian President Al-Sisi affirming Cairo's support for the Palestinians and Abbas. During this meeting, the PA leader reportedly agreed to take part in a series of meetings in Egypt with the various leaders of the Palestinian factions in order to resume attempts at reconciliation. The Egyptian delegation also visited the Gaza Strip, where Kamel met with Hamas officials.

Atalayar_ministro egipcio

After the meeting, the Resistance Movement's number two, Jalil al Haya, stressed that the group would not make the reconstruction of Gaza conditional on a possible agreement on a prisoner exchange, as Israel is demanding. He also addressed the situation in Gaza, Jerusalem and neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah. "We discussed several issues, the most important of which is the need to force Israel to stop its aggression in Gaza, Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah and throughout Palestine," al-Haya said. He said the Hebrew country must fully lift the blockade it imposed on Gaza when Hamas seized power over rival Palestinian forces in 2007 after winning the 2006 elections.

For his part, Hamas's Gaza leader, Yehya Al-Sinwar, announced that "there is a real possibility of making progress" on resolving the prisoners' issue, although he added that Hamas demanded that such negotiations be held in parallel to the ceasefire talks. During this meeting, the Egyptian intelligence chief was expected to announce Cairo's plans to fund a housing project in the enclave. Egypt has pledged $500 million to fund the reconstruction of devastated areas of Gaza, but it is not yet known by whom and how the funds will be managed.

Atalayar_Jefe de Hamás

Egypt's diplomatic efforts since the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel began have been titanic. The North African country has undoubtedly emerged as the main mediator, even more so than the United States. Joe Biden's administration became involved in the conflict once "Israel's security had been compromised", and as a loyal ally of the Hebrew country in the region, the US initiated bilateral contacts with Israel to try to stop the escalation of violence. Once Netanyahu declared a ceasefire, the US Secretary of State travelled to the Jewish state to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

With the cessation of hostilities shored up, the United States has once again faded in its Middle East management and Egypt has played the leading role as mediator, establishing contact with the leaders of the different Palestinian factions as well as with the Israeli government. Another major achievement of the Egyptian delegation is the presence of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Cairo for talks, senior Egyptian security officials confirmed to the AFP news agency. Little or nothing is known about this meeting, which could prove decisive in establishing the clauses of this ceasefire agreement, and a new opportunity for reconciliation between the different Palestinian factions.