Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in New York, September 18, 2017.

Egypt over the weekend exerted efforts to finalize a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas while minimizing Qatari influence in the Strip and pushing towards a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Fatah.

The Egyptian diplomatic activity took place while facing Hamas’ pressure and Qatar’s opposition, despite the sharp enmity between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

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Arab sources told TPS that Egyptian pressure on Hamas is meant to soften the terror group’s stance vis-à-vis Israel and the PA while detaching it from Qatari influence.

“Egypt has not forgotten Hamas’ involvement in terrorism in its territory and is not willing to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to gain a foothold in the Strip” the PA source said. “Hamas is suspicious, but above all, Egypt is trying to push Hamas away from the extremists – the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. Egypt is helping Gaza as a means [to achieve a goal] and not out of sympathy.”

The sources further told TPS that Hamas has blamed Egypt of endorsing Israel’s positions, while the Egyptians believe that Qatar has too much influence on Gaza’s future.

Qatar has been providing heavy financial support to Gaza and by doing so has been influencing Hamas’ policies.

One of the issues under dispute is the possibility of the United Nations monitoring the funds that Qatar passes on to Hamas. Sources report that Egypt has told Hamas that Israel insists on this issue, and Hamas views this as Egyptian support for Israel.

Last month, Israel objected to some of the names on the list of those receiving the funds, and as a result, a smaller sum entered the Strip, and two months ago, a Qatari delay in the transferring of the funds ended with Hamas firing rockets at Israel.

Egypt has been putting pressure on Hamas. One way is by denying Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh a travel permit to Turkey, Qatar and Tehran.

Hamas senior official Musa Abu Marzouq was called for an emergency meeting in Egypt on Thursday to discuss the ceasefire with Israel and the reconciliation with Fatah.  Abu Marzouq asked the Egyptians to remove the ban on Haniyeh, but they refused, so Abu Marzouq will lead a Hamas delegation to Russia.

Egypt is also pushing for an agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The PA is demanding the implementation of the 2017 understandings and the control over the crossings in and out of Gaza.

Egypt’s efforts are shadowed by an internal Hamas dispute on how to respond to the IDF’s killing of one of its members on Thursday. The military wing is demanding a sharp reaction, while the diplomatic leadership is seeking to promote the understandings with Israel.

Egypt has so far been successful in maintaining peace.

A testament to the inner rift was expressed by Hamas official Fathi Hamed, who said that Hamas is determined to respond with “death for death” and to kill Jews “with explosive vests made by Hamas.”

Ahmed Yousef, another senior Hamas official, rejected his words and stated that he “understands the rage over the occupation’s crimes against our people, but the language of knives and explosive belts is not the language of politicians and the killing of Jews is an aberration of the religion and ethics and stands in contrast to Hamas’ charter.”

The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appears to be a done deal, and delegations from Qatar and the UN are slated to arrive in Gaza to promote various development projects. Egypt is promoting an industrial zone that will employ 5,000 workers.

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