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Hamas delegation visits Cairo in attempt to restore Egypt ties

An Egyptian newspaper has reported that a delegation of senior Hamas leaders visiting Cairo failed to improve relations with the Egyptian government, although Hamas denied this was the case.

The delegation spent five days in Egypt, after relations between Cairo and Hamas reached a new low earlier this month when Hamas was accused of helping carry out the assassination of the country’s state prosecutor. Egypt’s Interior Minister, Magdi Abdel Ghaffar said that Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat’s murder last year had been ordered by Muslim Brotherhood figures in Turkey, but that “Hamas trained, prepared and oversaw the implementation” of the attack.

Barakat’s assassination was one of many attacks launched by Islamist groups against officials associated with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, the army and security forces. Al-Sisi overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 and his authority has since been targeted by Islamist terror groups. Hamas is also accused by Egypt of actively aiding one of the most active of these terror groups, the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province, which has persistently attacked Egyptian military forces in Sinai, inflicting serious casualties. Hamas is thought to use a network of tunnels to smuggle weapons and fighters into neighbouring Sinai from the Gaza Strip. Egypt has consequently clamped down hard on smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip-Sinai border and has kept the Rafah border crossing almost entirely closed.

The Hamas delegation hoped to improve ties with Cairo. But, al-Ahram reports that Egypt was disappointed over Hamas’s “refusal to admit mistakes” over support for Sinai terror or its role in Barakat’s assassination. Apparently, Egyptian officials reiterated that it views the Palestinian Authority as the sole body to discuss strategic issues, such as the Rafah border crossing or a Gaza sea port.

However, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk claimed yesterday that the talks had “opened a new page and dialogue among friends,” adding that Hamas would not allow “anyone harm Egypt’s security.” There has been no official comment from Egypt’s government.