High-level Hamas delegation visits Cairo day before major protests

A high-level Hamas delegation from the Gaza Strip, including Ismail Haniyeh, its political chairman, traveled to Egypt on Sunday for several hours, a day before a in the border region between Israel and the coastal enclave.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the delegation had been invited to Egypt “to consult about the latest developments related to Palestinian and regional affairs.” He did not elaborate.

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The Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV reported that Haniyeh and other members of the delegation arrived in Egypt Sunday afternoon, having flown aboard an Egyptian military aircraft. Pictures on Twitter show Haniyeh; Hamas’s deputy chief in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya; and Hamas Politburo member Rouhi Mushtaha, disembarking from a beige aircraft.

Early Sunday evening, the delegation returned to Gaza.

After returning to Gaza, Hayya told reporters that the Hamas delegation met with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel. He also said that the delegation was promised that “Egypt will continue to stand alongside the Palestinian people…[and] try to lighten the burden of the siege.”

The planned protests for Monday are slated to mark the climax of a series of protests that have been taking place for several successive Fridays since March 30. The protests support the return of refugees and their descendants to their ancestral and former homes in Israel.

The IDF has described the protests as “violent riots,” asserting that protesters have thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks at its soldiers, opened fire on them, set tires on fire and attempted to pass through the border fence. Since the beginning of the unrest, Israeli security forces have killed more than 40 Palestinians in the border region, including several people the IDF identified as being members of armed groups.

Hamas Chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar hinted last Thursday that thousands of Palestinians might attempt to breach the border fence this week.

“What’s the problem if hundreds of thousands storm this fence, which is not a border of a state? What’s the problem with that?” Sinwar asked at a briefing with foreign journalists according to The Independent and several other news outlets.

Israeli security officials have said Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who approach the border fence are putting their lives in jeopardy.

Sinwar said last Wednesday that foreign and regional intermediaries had made efforts “to end” the protests, according to the Hamas-linked Al-Risala news site. He did not specifically mention Egypt, although it has previously brokered agreements between Israel and Hamas and other factions in Gaza.