Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-SisiReuters

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has ordered his government to open up to Hamas, sources in Gaza told i24news on Sunday.

According to the source, Sisi has ordered a Free Trade Zone to be built on the Gaza-Egypt border. Another project ordered by Sisi is the construction of a field hospital in Gaza to be run and managed by Egyptian doctors, as a step to decrease the number of Gaza residents who seek medical attention in Egypt, Israel and abroad.

The moves come after a number of meetings between Hamas delegations and high-level Egyptian intelligence officials over the last few months.

Hamas enjoyed good relations with former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a member of Hamas’s parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, relations have been tense under Sisi, who has cracked down on the underground tunnels between the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza, which terrorists use to smuggle terrorists and weapons from Egypt into the coastal enclave.

In an attempt to improve strained ties, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh recently met in Cairo with Egyptian officials to discuss ways to improve the strained relations.

Haniyeh later claimed that Hamas had opened “a new page” in its relations with Egypt, adding that the group is interested in maintaining close contacts with Egypt and intends to remove all causes of concern for the Egyptian leadership, especially in the field of security.

Since the visits, the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been ordered to open at least twice a month, for days at a time bringing in much-needed goods. For its part, Hamas will rein in the Salafist groups in Gaza who are accused of having ties to the Islamic State branch in the Sinai Peninsula, according to i24news.

Hamas has reportedly also agreed to increase the number of its members patrolling the borders. Since the beginning of this year, Hamas security has arrested more than 850 alleged Salafist members.

The Egyptian government’s warming of relations with Hamas comes as its relations with Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party have deteriorated. This was reflected in Egypt’s recent decision to bar Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub from entering the country.

Reports say the tension between Fatah and Egypt is a result of Abbas’s recent refusal to launch a regional peace initiative with the participation of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.