Egypt is trying to broker a broad ceasefire deal between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that is to pave the way for Gaza’s reconstruction and an eventual prisoner swap, senior Hamas officials said Thursday.
Repeated ceasefire deals over the years collapsed, but there were signs of possible momentum toward a new agreement, after weeks of escalation along the Gaza-Israel frontier.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to put off a trip to South America to keep an eye on the situation in Gaza, a government official said Thursday.
Separately, a high-level Hamas delegation planned to enter Gaza later Thursday after holding talks in Cairo, said the Palestine Information Center, a Hamas-linked website.
Most of the Hamas leadership is based in Gaza but would be joined by exiled members of the group’s political bureau, including Saleh Arouri, a founder of the Hamas military wing and a mastermind of terror attacks against Israelis in the past.
“Permitting a delegation with this level to come to Gaza is a clear sign that there are first of all guarantees that the delegation will not be targeted by the Israelis, and a sign that there are serious meetings to be held in Gaza,” said Bassem Naim, a Gaza-based Hamas official.
He said Hamas officials would try to “conclude the progress that has been made on files such as the truce,” as well as a U.N.-led rebuilding of Gaza and possible reconciliation between Hamas and its domestic political rival, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Naim said the Hamas leaders would also talk about a possible prisoner swap with Israel.
Two other senior Hamas officials confirmed the outlines of the deal proposed by Egypt. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details of closed-door negotiations.
It’s not clear what role Abbas would play in Gaza, if any. He has said in the past that he would only resume responsibility for Gaza if Hamas agrees to hand over all authority there, including over security. Hamas has been unwilling to do so.
Gaza has endured a border blockade by Israel and Egypt, imposed after Hamas seized the territory in 2007.