Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90
Site of an Israeli airstrike on a terror target in Rafah, Gaza. May 20, 2021

Egypt is expected to introduce very significant relief on the movement of goods, mechanical equipment, and businessmen through the Rafah crossing to and from the Gaza Strip, according to a businessman from a Gazan delegation staying in Cairo.

Egypt will also approve the transfer of some of the goods that Israel currently blocks from transfer through the Kerem Shalom crossing, due to their dual civilian-military use and the possibility that they will be used for terrorist purposes.

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The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar claimed in a report that the above arrangement was part of an agreement reached between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at their last meeting.

A delegation of business people from Gaza recently visited Cairo several times to coordinate economic relief and traffic at the Egypt-Gaza Rafah crossing.

According to multiple reports, Egypt is expected to facilitate the movement of business people departing from Gaza to Cairo and from there to Arab and other countries. Sources said the Cairo government will lower transportation prices between Egypt and Gaza and expand authorized imports for construction materials, including large quantities of iron. Egypt will also authorize extensive agricultural exports from Gaza through the country, according to the report.

In addition, the Lebanese news outlet reported that Egypt will soon install electronic detectors at the Rafah crossing, which will enable personnel to detect arms smuggling — also in accordance with the agreement reached between the Egyptian president and the Israeli prime minister.

Egypt has a very strong interest in rehabilitating the Gaza Strip, beyond the political interest. With the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, Egypt pledged to invest half a billion dollars in rehabilitating the enclave; however, various sources said that Egypt intends to give the large tenders to Egyptian companies operating under the auspices of the Egyptian army, thus allowing them to obtain huge capital.

“The Egyptian presence in the Gaza Strip has been very noticeable since the operation and after the Egyptians completed the demolition phase [in Gaza], including the demolition of buildings that Israel toppled in the operation, Hamas now appears to be fully coordinated with Egypt,” said an unnamed source.

“This can explain the relative calm in the Gaza Strip and also Hamas’ actions to curb the rocket fire carried out by Islamic Jihad.”

Sources in Hamas report that in the Egypt-brokered talks between Israel and the organization’s senior delegation, progress has been made in the matter of rehabilitation, but not regarding a prisoner exchange with Israel.

As far as Hamas is concerned, this is an achievement since it is demanding to disconnect the rehabilitation of Gaza from the issue of releasing Israeli prisoners. Egypt reportedly has accepted this position in practice.

Cairo security officials are continuing to mediate between Israel and Hamas and a Palestinian Authority source said that although there has been no breakthrough on the issue of prisoners and missing persons — since Hamas is still demanding the release of more than 1,000 of its men and the release of Marwan Barghouti from Fatah and Ahmad Saadat from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — there is still optimism about the chances of a long-term ceasefire.

Egypt is signaling to Hamas that the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip is at the top of the list of its priorities, the source added.

Hana Levi Julian contributed to this report.

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Baruch reports on Arab affairs for TPS.