Egypt delegation in Israel proposes 'prolonged' Gaza truce amid Sisi's Rafah invasion warning

Egypt delegation in Israel proposes 'prolonged' Gaza truce amid Sisi's Rafah invasion warning
Egypt's delegation is in Israel to propose a new ceasefire deal that would stop the planned Israeli invasion of Gaza's southern city of Rafah.
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Egypt's top intelligence official Abbas Kamel is leading the delegation in Israel [Getty]

Egypt sent a high-level delegation to Israel on Friday with the hope of brokering a ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza, two officials said. At the same time, it warned that a possible Israeli offensive focused on Gaza's city of Rafah — on the border with Egypt — could have catastrophic consequences for regional stability.

Egypt's top intelligence official, Abbas Kamel, is leading the delegation and plans to discuss with Israel a “new vision” for a prolonged ceasefire in Gaza, an Egyptian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the mission freely.

As the war drags on and casualties mount, there has been growing international pressure for Hamas and Israel to reach an agreement on a ceasefire.

Friday's talks will focus at first on a limited exchange of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners, and the return of a significant number of displaced Palestinians to their homes in northern Gaza “with minimum restrictions,” the Egyptian official said.

The hope is that negotiations will then continue, with the goal of a larger deal to end the war, he said.

The official said mediators are working on a compromise that will answer most of both parties’ main demands.

Ahead of the talks, senior Hamas official Basem Naim told The Associated Press “there is nothing new from our side,” when asked about the negotiations.

However, speaking to The New Arab's Arabic language sister outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha welcomed the Egyptian initiative, saying it "demonstrates the continued efforts by Qatari and Egyptian mediators to reach an agreement that takes into account the national Palestinian stance of the resistance factions".

Taha further outlined that Hamas's red lines were a "permanent ceasefire, the full withdrawal of Israel's forces, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes, the entry of relief and reconstruction convoys and ultimately leading to a prisoner exchange." 

Meantime, Israel has been conducting near-daily raids on Rafah, a city in which more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people have sought refuge.

The Israeli military has massed dozens of tanks and armored vehicles in an area of southern Israel that is close to Rafah, in apparent preparations for an invasion of the city.

While in Israel, Kamel, who heads Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, plans to make clear that Egypt “will not tolerate” Israel’s deployments of troops along that border, the Egyptian official said.

The official said Egypt shared intelligence with the United States and European countries showing that a Rafah offensive would inflame the entire region.

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A Western diplomat in Cairo also said that Egypt has intensified its efforts in recent days to reach a compromise and establish a short cease-fire in Gaza that will help negotiate a longer truce and avert a Rafah offensive.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the developments.

On Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi cautioned that an Israeli attack on Rafah would have “catastrophic consequences on the humanitarian situation in the strip, as well as the regional peace and security.”

El-Sisi’s comments came in a phone call with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of The Netherlands, the Egyptian leader’s office said.

Egypt has also said an attack on Rafah would violate the decades-old peace deal between Egypt and Israel.