Egyptian, Palestinian Leaders Meet Amid Likely Gaza Shakeup

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, March, 2015. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

Egyptian and Palestinian leaders met in Cairo on Sunday amid signs of a rapprochement between Cairo and Hamas that could shake up Gaza’s political landscape and sideline the Palestinian president.

Officials close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian leader met with President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi to seek clarifications on what appears to be an emerging power-sharing agreement between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and an exiled Abbas rival, former Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan.

Under the deal, parts of which have been confirmed by other parties involved, Hamas would retain control over Gaza’s security, while Dahlan would eventually return to Gaza and handle its foreign relations.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Neither leader made any comments to the media after their meeting in Cairo. A statement by Egypt’s presidential spokesman stuck to generalities. The two leaders, the statement added, discussed the latest developments in the Palestinians’ bid for statehood and ways to revive the peace process.

The emerging understandings between Egypt, Hamas and Dahlan could pose a serious political threat to Abbas and the prospects of Palestinian statehood. A Palestinian “mini state” in Gaza could undermine the official state within the pre-1967 lines which Abbas and others claim to support.

In remarks over the weekend, Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh lauded the new security coordination with Egypt. Speaking a day after Islamic State terrorists killed at least 23 Egyptian soldiers in the deadliest attack in Sinai in two years, he said Hamas was “carrying out intensive measures on the border with Egypt to prevent any infiltration” into Gaza after the attack.

Separately, Dahlan and Hamas reached several understandings, according to officials on both sides. Abbas’ aides said such contacts would only have been possible with Egypt’s blessing.

The officials said they were told that as a first step, Dahlan was expected to disburse $50 million in UAE funds to the families of those killed in the Hamas-Fatah street fighting of 2006 and 2007. One of his main lieutenants, Samir Masharawi, an exiled Fatah leader from Gaza, was to return to the territory to start implementing the deal.

During the meeting, al-Sisi told Abbas that it was essential to bring about a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict which will include the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with a capital in Jerusalem.

Al-Sisi also said that a solution was of paramount importance in the reestablishment of stability and security to the Middle East as a whole.

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