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Hamas leader in Cairo to discuss Gaza blockade

Haniyeh’s visit part of Hamas bid to mend fences with Egypt

Gulf News

GAZA — The new chief of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas Esmail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on Saturday to hold talks with senior Egyptian officials on his first such visit as leader, a Hamas spokesman said.

In the past few months Hamas has sought to mend relations with Egypt, which controls their one border crossing and has, under President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, been highly wary of ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, ousted from power by Al Sissi after mass protests.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, a densely populated coastal territory that shares borders with Egypt and Israel, with which it has fought three wars since 2008.

For much of the last decade, Egypt has joined Israel in enforcing a partial land, sea and air blockade of Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the talks with Egypt will focus on alleviating the blockade and mending a long-standing rift with rival group Fatah, headed by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

There was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials on the talks.

Haniyeh was elected Hamas leader in May. The group maintains a sizeable armed wing in Gaza since seizing the enclave from Fatah in 2007.

Israel, which signed a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and coordinates closely with it on security, is maintaining a close watch on discussions between Egypt and Hamas. Like the United States and the European Union, it regards Hamas as a terrorist group.