Hamas leader visits Egypt in a bid to improve ties

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrives in Cairo for talks with senior Egyptian officials.

Elad Benari ,

Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials, Egyptian sources said Monday, according to the Turkish Anadolu news agency.

A security source at Cairo International Airport told the news agency that Haniyeh and his delegation will remain in Cairo for several days.

Haniyeh and his delegation were received at the airport late Sunday by members of an Egyptian "sovereign authority", the source said, speaking to Anadolu on condition of anonymity.

"Haniyeh, accompanied by several Hamas leaders, arrived in Egypt’s capital Sunday evening from Qatari capital Doha," a source close to Hamas confirmed to the Turkish news agency.

"Haniyeh and his delegation will now meet with Egyptian officials to discuss the political and security files and Hamas-Egypt relations," the source added.

Hamas was on good terms with Egypt under the rule of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, a member of Hamas’s parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Things have been different, however, under current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who ousted Morsi in 2013.

Cairo has accused Hamas of being involved in the terrorist attacks in the Sinai, most of which have been carried out by the “Sinai Province”, which is the Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate in Egypt. Hamas denies the accusations.

Last year, Egypt accused Hamas of involvement, along with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, in the killing of the country's top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.

Egypt began creating a wide buffer zone along the Gaza border in late 2014 in a bid to destroy the hundreds of smuggling tunnels Cairo says are used by Palestinian Arabs to deliver weapons to jihadists who are battling Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

The decision on the buffer zone was made following two deadly attacks in El-Arish, which killed dozens of soldiers and which were claimed by Sinai Province.

Egyptian sources revealed that Hamas terrorists had provided the weapons for the lethal attacks in El-Arish through one of its smuggling tunnels. Hamas denied the charge.

Last March, a delegation headed by Hamas political bureau member Mousa Abu Marzook held talks in Egypt aimed at normalizing strained relations.

Following the visit, reports emerged that Hamas agreed to Egypt’s demands, namely that it would not interfere in Egyptian affairs, and will supervise and control the borders with Gaza, while fighting all extremists in Gaza and stopping them from infiltrating Egypt.