Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray/Released
US Navy ship entering Limassol port in Cyprus

Egypt is drafting a comprehensive deal between Israel and Hamas under international auspices, according to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar. The deal calls for exchanging the bodies of two Israeli soldiers kept in Gaza since 2014, and two Israeli citizens who wondered into the Gaza Strip, in exchange for improving the economic situation in Gaza, as well as lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and granting Hamas a free harbor in Cyprus. It isn’t clear whether Hamas would also demand the release of its security prisoners currently in Israeli jails.

According to the report, the “international auspices,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolai Mladenov, and Qatari Ambassador to the Palestinian Authority Mohamed Al Emadi, are planning a visit to the Gasa Strip in the near future, and then share their views with the Israeli leadership.

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Gaza’s humanitarian crisis was one of the key topics discussed last weekend at two meetings between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump’s emissaries Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meanwhile said he agreed with Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis, who offered to set up a quay at a Cypriot port for the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip, under Israeli supervision.

The proposal essentially calls for replacing the Ashdod harbor, some 20 miles away from Gaza by car, with a harbor in Cyprus, some 225 nautical miles away, where the same goods would undergo the same Israeli supervision mechanism that prevents Hamas from exploiting the current harbor to smuggle weapons and other contraband.

Hams is yet to be handed a copy of the Egyptian draft, nor has it responded to Liberman’s implied offer of a harbor in Cyprus in exchange for the four Israeli, living and otherwise. Al-Akhbar cites sources in Hamas that reject the free harbor idea if it includes continued Israeli inspections. The same sources also insist on exchanging the four Israelis for the entire population of Israel’s security prisons.

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